Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Short Story: First Steps

Shayna Hunt

Her name was Irina. When I first met her she was ten years old, spoke flawless English while sporting a Russian accent, and saw the world through the most beautiful hazel eyes I had ever seen.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

My husband and I had been married just over four years, our oldest daughter, now twenty, had recently turned three, and I was expecting my second child. We lived in a beautiful third-floor apartment in Chicago with no elevator, and each month our apartment seemed higher up. Never more so than when I returned from shopping and had to schlep bags of groceries to the third floor with a kvetchy toddler in tow.

At the time, Chicago received a large influx of Russian Jews, determined to have a better, freer life. We frum Jews primarily kept to ourselves. While I was fascinated with the changes, I had many close friends in my building, and felt no need or desire to take time to get to know anyone else on my block. Instead, I quietly observed the groups of Russians from a distance.

Summer rolled around and I noticed a large group of Russian children around ten- to twelve-years old pretty much left to fend for themselves during the long, hot days. When I took my daughter outside to play each day, I sat on my stoop and watched her — sometimes with my friends from the building, sometimes alone — and kept an eye on that large group of ragtag children.

By the middle of summer, though I’d never said more than a quick “hello,” flashing a quiet smile toward them, I knew quite a lot about them. Irina, though she was by far not the oldest of the group, was clearly the leader, making up for her youth with her clever ideas and bold demeanor. I also knew that just as fascinated as I was by them, they — Irina especially — were equally fascinated by me. I realized that I must have been one of the first frum people they’d ever seen up close.

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Not a Newspaper
Shoshana Friedman A deeper difference between newspapers and magazines
Services in Shards
Rabbi Moshe Grylak “Such a painful, malicious lie!”
The Pittsburgh Protests: All Politics All the Time
Yonoson Rosenblum The old rule — “no enemies on the left” — still applies
Danger: School Crossing
Eytan Kobre The hypocrisy of YAFFED’s assertion is breathtaking
Real Laughter and Real Tears
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger The two sides of a life lived with emunah
Work/Life Solutions with Eli Langer
Moe Mernick I was proud to be “that guy with the yarmulke”
Is Ktchong! a Mitzvah? When Prayer and Charity Collide
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman These cannot both be done effectively at the same time
An Honest Shidduch
Jacob L. Freedman “Baruch Hashem I’m cured, and this will be my secret”
A Blessing in Disguise
Riki Goldstein “I never thought the song would catch on as it has”
Ishay and Motti Strike a Common Chord
Riki Goldstein Bringing together two worlds of Jewish music
What’s your favorite Motzaei Shabbos niggun?
Riki Goldstein From the holy and separate back to the mundane
Rightfully Mine
Faigy Peritzman Don’t regret the job you didn’t land; it was never yours
Growing Greener Grass
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Nurture your blessings and watch them blossom
My Way or the High Way
Rebbetzin Debbie Greenblatt We know what we want — but do we know what He wants?