It took a long bath and a lot of soothing before my son was clean, calm, and coherent enough to explain
I’ve always found Avraham Fried’s song “The Little Leaf,” touching.
It tells of a tzaddik who wonders why a leaf fell from a tree. He asks the leaf, the branch, the wind, and finally, the Ultimate Boss, Who reveals that the leaf fell to shield a kleiner verimel, a little worm, from the sun’s heat.
In the care shown to a little worm, I feel cared for, too. I think about the song when I experience kleiner verimel moments, when I’m gifted with a glimpse of a chain of events orchestrated for me.
Like the time my three-year-old fell into a ditch.
When my son burst into the bungalow Sunday morning, drenched, filthy, and crying hysterically about having fallen into the water and being unable to get out, I was mystified. I couldn’t think of any place that jibed with his description.
My macho boy shook in my arms, clearly traumatized. There was a nasty-looking bump on his forehead, near two almost-gashes. This could have ended with stitches, I thought.
It took a long bath and a lot of soothing before my son was clean, calm, and coherent enough to explain.
He led me to a small cluster of four bungalows. One had a plywood ramp against its side. Slowly, the story emerged. My son and a friend had been playing on the flimsy ramp when a slab of plywood at the top suddenly shifted. My son tumbled five feet down into the hollow frame of the ramp, landing underneath the adjacent bungalow.
I peered into the pit where he fell and shuddered. There was about six inches of water, liberally studded with rocks, cinderblocks, and metal pipes. Stitches, I realized, was not the worst-case scenario. He could have hit his head. Badly.
Though children rarely play in this out-of-the-way corner of the colony, a group of kids was thankfully present to witness his fall. They screamed. The adult son of the bungalow’s occupants heard, went out to investigate, and climbed in to rescue my son.
He could have been alone. He could have lain there for hours.
I held my son close. My poor, poor boy. He’d already bounced back to his cheerful self, but now I was shaking, overcome with shock, horror, and profound gratitude.
I knocked on the bungalow’s door to find my son’s rescuer. “Thank you,” I said.
I gazed upward. “Thank You,” I whispered.
I met the middle-aged woman who occupied the bungalow where the accident occurred. She was visibly rattled. “You have no idea what nissim you had,” she told me.
Throughout the summer, she said, there’d been water underneath her bungalow. A few feet of water. Last week, inexplicably, the water had begun producing an unpleasant smell.
“I never complain,” she said, but the odor grew unbearable, and her neighbor advised her to bring it to management’s attention. Still, she hesitated. Then, one day at the pool, the owner of the colony unexpectedly walked in. Her neighbor grew insistent. “There’s no reason you should put up with this. She’s here — go talk to her.”
“I never complain,” she told me again. “But the smell was terrible, so I did.”
The drainage system under the bungalow, it turned out, needed replacement. On Friday, not 48 hours earlier, a new pump was installed. And for the first time all summer, the water was drained.
She paused, looked me in the eye. “If a three-year-old had fallen in there two days ago, he would have drowned before my son got to him.”
I stood there, ice cold, trying to absorb the unabsorbable.
I could have lost my son.
I never imagined I’d shed tears of gratitude for a sewage backup. But I got home, bawled my way through Hallel, thanking Hashem like I’ve never thanked Him before. I moved through the day in a daze, struggling to calm the stampede in my heart, block out the what-ifs sprinting through my brain, breathe past the could haves lodged in my throat. I snuggled with my son at bedtime — the son that was nearly no more — kissed him goodnight again and again, savored the treasure I’d been granted anew.
And then, in the silence of the night, I thought.
I thought of a kleiner verimel under a scorching sun. A gust of wind, a swaying branch, a lone leaf dropping silently to the ground. And a little worm that slept.
I thought of an active little boy, of four feet of water unnoticed by all but One. A sudden odor, a persistent neighbor, a timely encounter, an uncharacteristic complaint, a pump installed in the nick of time.
And a little boy who lived.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 755)
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