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Short Story: The One Who Got Away

Tzipporah Wald

A Jewish child. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, a Jewish child called Hanny. Breindy pictured her, sitting on her bed in Missouri, thinking Jewish thoughts, yearning for Hashem, not knowing Who she was yearning for.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Breindy hated goodbyes, but it was time. It was definitely time. Meir, their son-in-law, had piled their luggage into the back of his minivan; the children were strapped happily into their car seats. Channy, their daughter, had come to escort them on their way, darting somewhat nervous glances back toward the house where Baby Nechamy was sleeping peacefully in her crib in the nursery. Baby Nechamy’s arrival was what this trip had been all about. But now it was time for Breindy and Zev to say goodbye and go back to their own home in Jerusalem.

Let’s try and keep this cheerful, Breindy told herself, as she always did when it was time for goodbyes. “Ki b’simchah teitzei’u, u’v’shalom tuvalun — If you go forth amid joy, you will dwell in peace.” How can we inject some humor to lighten up this situation?

Channy, looking rather woebegone, was holding out her arms for a goodbye hug. Meaning to be funny, Breindy gave her an exaggerated bear hug, rocking her back and forth. Except that, in the middle, she somehow didn’t feel like letting go. I wish this moment could just go on and on and on. … Why do we have to go to the next moment? What’s wrong with this one? Was it because Channy was the youngest of their daughters? Not really. Breindy thought she’d feel the same with any of them.

“Mommy!” Channy protested, laughing. “Ouch!”

Breindy broke away, embarrassed. What had she been thinking of? Such a wildly exuberant embrace to give a kimpeturn, a new mother!

Yes, but I kept it light, she thought with some satisfaction as she got into the backseat of the minivan. I made her smile. Breindy smiled broadly from the car window, waving vigorously with both hands, blowing oodles and oodles of kisses as the car backed out of the driveway. It wasn’t until they were nearly a block away, when she was fairly sure that Channy had hurried back to her baby — or even if she was still watching, could no longer see her — that Breindy groped in her purse for tissues and dabbed at her eyes.

A two-and-a-half-hour drive to the nearest airport. In La Crosse. What kind of a name was that, anyhow — La Crosse?! She’d looked it up, once: Named by the explorer Zebulon Pike, when he saw the Native Americans there playing a game with a stick that looked like a bishop’s cross. “I have fallen in love with American names … ” some poet wrote. “Medicine Hat, Tucson, Deadwood, Lost Mule Flats.”

I have not fallen in love with the name La Crosse, Breindy decided. And its neighboring town, La Crescent, doesn’t appeal to me any better!

She was a long, long way from home, 6,224 miles as the crow flies. Except that she wasn’t a crow. “Mi yitein li ? Who will give me the wings of a dove …? ” that we should fly quickly back to our home in Jerusalem?... No doves around here, alas. Just an American Airlines flight from La Crosse to Chicago and then from Chicago to Paris and then from Paris to Tel Aviv. Well, in the absence of doves, that would do.

She hoped they wouldn’t be late for this flight. They’d left in plenty of time, hours early. But what if the car broke down, or what if there was a detour for construction, or what if … ?

Breindy started davening.

 

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