| Family Tempo |

And Flowers Bloom Even Then 

“Ohmygoodness.” Rechy rushes to speak. “You picked up, yay, you picked up. How are you?”


he carnations are dead.

I only know they are carnations because of the card Rechy sent along. These are carnations, water once a week. It is a dry sort of plant. Take care of it.

It’s the third week of flowers showing up on my doorstep. I know they're from Rechy, and I know I should say thank you, but I don’t.

I think she thinks that sending me something pretty every week would somehow help me, make me feel better. It’s a stupid plan.

Ha. I shake my head and dump the drooping flowers in the garbage.

The jarring ringtone confuses me, and it takes me a full minute to realize that I have to pick up.

That is how phones work, Leah’le, I chide myself. Just because everything else is different doesn’t mean that phones aren’t still the same.

“Ohmygoodness.” Rechy rushes to speak. “You picked up, yay, you picked up. How are you?”

“Are you dancing?” I ask her. “Your voice sounds like you’re dancing.”

I lean on the counter of my big empty kitchen. The lights closed and the window shades shut. My bones are tired, my heart is tired.

“I’m preparing supper now.”

I make a sound. Rechy can choose to interpret it however she pleases.

“Leah’le, what are you making for supper?” I don’t think she’s actually interested; I think she just wants to hear me talk so she knows I’m still here, still okay.

The past three weeks have been yogurt-and-eggs-and-bagels-for-supper kind of weeks. “Nothing, eggs maybe, I don’t know.” I sit down on the kitchen floor before my legs can buckle.

Surprisingly, Rikki and Heshy have not complained about their supperless suppers.

Rechy launches into a detailed description of her exact menu for today. I tune out. It’s not intentional; it’s just what happens. I have nothing against my sister. But her voice is just so enthusiastic, and it makes me feel weak.

“Chicken and garlic and crumbs with rice and the cream of chicken soup Yossi loves.”

She explains how you coat the cutlets as if I have never done it before.

“That sounds nice.” I tell her. My voice comes out choked.

“Are you okay? Like, all the way okay?”

If I close my eyes, I can see her in her kitchen dipping her cutlets in batter.

“Leah’le.” She is trying so hard to be patient and joyful, and I am making it hard.

“I’m good.” I assure her. “I am really good, don’t worry, baby sister.”

There is a space where neither of us talks. I close my eyes. Everything is dark and as close to peaceful as it can be. I breathe.

“So you’re making eggs,” she says, humor in her tone.

Contrary to Rechy’s belief, I am not making eggs.

I put a container of eggs on the counter so when the kids come home, they can make eggs for themselves. After that very strenuous activity, which leaves me physically and emotionally drained, I sit on the dining room chair facing the bay window.

The sky is blue, but it looks almost white. The window is foggy, but I can see the white van across the street, its front tires wedged between stones and thick grass. The van has been here since the day the first bouquet of flowers arrived. A month ago. They were tulips. Purple and red.

I have yet to see it move and yet to see a man claim the van. My daughter tells me I’m stereotyping the van by saying its owner is a man.

“It might be a woman, and she might be driving the ugly van with six-inch heels.”

So smart, that daughter of mine.

Rikki is home. I hear her dump her backpack in the hallway.

“So did the van do anything special today?” she asks, as much invested in it as I am.


She turns on the lights in the house. She takes a yogurt and sits down next to me.

“Did you at least see the driver, is it a woman?”

“No driver. I do have a new theory, though.” I have not looked away from the window since I spoke to Rechy.

“Okay, let’s hear it,” my 15-year-old asks.

My first theory was that there was a kidnapped girl in the back of the beat-up van. Dovid shot that down pretty fast. By now my theories are turning fantastical.

The relentless obsession with the wayward van isn’t as much for the sake of the van as it is for me, I know that. I need to feel like I am still a person. I know I am floating, and I wish I could ground myself in caring for my children and their suppers and their day at school, but it takes too much out of me.

The van doesn’t demand anything, and I doubt it’s interested in my pathetic attempt at concern. Which makes it a perfect place for me to fail; there are no repercussions in this game.

“It’s a magical cookie shop,” I tell my daughter. “They make the best cookies in town, but they need to keep the recipe a secret so other companies don’t steal their idea. They make their cookies in the van, magically filling up to 200 orders a night.”

“Our street doesn’t smell like delicious magical cookies are being baked here,” Rikki argues.

“That’s part of the magic. They make sure we can’t smell the cookies, so we don’t suspect a thing.”

She nods. “Okay, that makes sense. So it’s a magical cookie shop.” She squeezes my shoulders. “I like that. Are the flowers from Auntie Rechy? They’re nice.”

Tuesday midafternoon I read my unread texts. They’re all from Rechy.

Going shopping today. I need a dark navy outfit for the wedding to match with mommy and the fam. 8:30

She thought I would be up at eight thirty. I laugh.

Coming to get you is time stamped 8:45.

Outside. 8:52

Where are you? 8:53

Leah’le!! 8:56

!!!? 8:56

You need a dress as well. Because you need to come to the wedding. 9:01

Waiting five minutes. 9:02

Okay, fine, ten minutes. 9:07

Ok, well I’m going. I’ll send you pics, call me. 9:15

After that there are ten pictures of different dresses. Rechy is posing in the dressing room mirror so I can see the whole look, smiling in each picture.

I should call her back.

I don’t.

There is a colorful bouquet in a tall crystal vase on the steps. I know because I heard the delivery guy knock and watched him leave it at the door.

I think he thinks nobody is ever home.

Dovid brings it in after Maariv and places it on the kitchen table.

“Did you thank your sister yet?”

I shake my head.

He groans. He is fed up with me. I’m fed up with me.

“I stepped in at Mommy’s,” he explains, the container of potatoes and chicken nuggets in his arms.

“I can see that.”

He pops it in the microwave. “Did you eat anything?” he asks.

When I don’t answer he asks me again. “Did you eat anything other than eggs and yogurt?”

I snort. “You’re hysterical.” We don’t talk much these days. It is too hard.

Dovid sighs. “Want some?” He burns his hand when he takes the plate out of the microwave. My eyes glaze over while I watch him eat.

The abandoned van is still there. Wedged between a rock and a hard place.

My theory of the day is that it’s a secret club.

In the thick of the night, members of the club sneak into the back and conduct their club meetings while noshing on their secret club snacks.

I am going to stay up all night until I see the shadows coming. And then I will sneak in with them, joining their society.

I share my newest theory with Rechy instead of having to hear the uncertainty and sympathy in her voice as she talks about anything. She really doesn’t care what she’s talking about, all she cares about is that I respond.

“What do you think the secret society is?” Rechy asks me.

She doesn’t mention the weekly flowers. And the fact that I have yet to thank her.

“What’s the secret society about, what do they discuss?” It has become normal for people to have to ask me twice before getting an answer.

My head suddenly feels heavy. “It’s a secret, that’s the whole point.”

“So not even you know what it is?”


“Am I going to see you at the chasunah?” her voice goes gentle, and my heart slacks. This is what I didn’t want to hear.

Aunt Gitty is making a chasunah next week. Aunt Gitty is Mommy’s only sister. There is also an older brother, and our extended family is very close. The peach-colored invitation is up on the fridge. Rikki is excited to see her only cousin her age, and Heshy is on a high because all the boys do shticks together.

“It’s on Wednesday,” I say. I know I still have two weeks and three days until then, but I know that won’t make a difference. It will still be too soon to venture outside. And the answer to, “When will it not be too soon?” is “Never.”

“I know. I’m just asking.” Rechy is still so gentle.

“I know, and I don’t know what to say.” There are tears clinging to the corners of my eyes. “I’m sorry.”

Now Mommy is on my case.

“The dress doesn’t have to be navy,” she says. “It can be any dress in your closet. I just want you to come.”

It’s warm outside, but I am shivering under a duvet on the couch.

“Honey, the chasunah is tomorrow, and I really want you to come.” She adds a please like the cherry on top.

I breathe. I should say I try to breathe. The dining room is dark. Everything is so dark.

“Leah’le.” Mommy tries to snap me out of wherever in my head I have disappeared to.

“If I come, all the cousins and friends, everyone will say mazel tov to me because it’s on their tip of their tongues, and then they will remember and apologize, and I will be left floundering in between the baby I had and don’t have any longer.”

“I’m sorry,” Mommy says.

Her words make me cry.

Okay, it might not be her words that force the ball of tears out.

It might be everything that has happened since we painted the room baby pink and bought a white crib and a car seat. Maybe it has nothing to do with Mommy and everything to do with me.

I sob as Mommy tries to comfort me.

I hiccup. “I was so scared. Before I had Rikki, I was terrified that I was going to mess up being a mother. This time I was so ready. I’d been waiting so long. And I didn’t even get a chance.” I wipe my eyes with my sleeve. “I really wanted the chance to do it right.”

“Rikki is a beautiful, smart, and talented young woman. And Heshy is the most wonderful boy I know. You are doing a good job. Losing the baby isn’t taking any of that away or proving any point.”

“I failed.” I weep.

“No, you didn’t. Hashem had a plan, and this was it, and now His plan is that your kids eat yogurts for supper and the baby room is empty and you stare at a white van every single day. That’s His plan.”

“Dovid told you?” I ask her.

“And Rechy and Rikki.” I can hear her smile on the other end of the line. “But that’s all right. I mean, tell the kids to come over if they want real food, but what I’m saying is you lost a baby and however long it takes, it will take.”

I don’t want to talk about it anymore. “What do you think is up with this van?”

“I don’t know, but I really liked the magical cookie shop idea.”

I snort trying to laugh through my tears. “Me, too.”

“Think about coming to the wedding.” Mommy blows me a kiss.

I do think about the wedding, but I don’t go. Dovid takes the kids.

“The food is really good.” Rechy says, harmonizing to the music and endless chatter of the cousins. “If you come, I’ll save you a spot and get you a plate of dessert.”

“I’m not coming.”

I leave the kitchen and without thinking open the locked door to the baby-pink room. I stand at the window facing the street. The walls are closing in on me.

There are stars twinkling in the sky and dark trees framing the window.

The van is still parked across the street.

Maybe it’s going to stay there for forever. Maybe someone stole the van and dumped it here, planning to leave it forever.

I text Dovid.

I am throwing out the crib


I am throwing out the crib in the— my fingers hover over the ‘b’ to type baby’s room. room

I wait for his response.

Okay. Buy something to fill the space.

Three hours later, I am still standing. I don’t feel my feet. If anybody is coming to claim the van tonight, I will not be up to see it.

I fall asleep on the floor in the pink room.

There is knocking on the front door, and I open it instinctively as I pass, regretting my decision instantly.

“Flowers,” the delivery boy in a green shirt says.

“I can see that.”

Sunlight spills into my home. I want to close the door.

The boy waits awkwardly for me to take the flowers, but I am staring at the blinding sun. He leaves them on the step.

He trips going down, and I shake my head. He stands up and continues down the path.

“Thank you,” I call after him.

“No problem.”

I take the flowers into the dark kitchen and fill the stationary vase with fresh water.

Well, if I can open the door and see the sun, I suppose I can go buy something to fill the empty pink room.

Target is huge and overwhelmingly bright and noisy.

I narrow my eyes and focus only on getting to a quiet aisle and breathing calmly again.

I’m standing between pots and spatulas, which feels hypocritical because I have yet to cook supper. I debate between a plant or a beanbag or both, and turning the room into a haven of relaxation with candles and couches and happiness, when our elderly neighbor Mrs. Katz is suddenly standing right in front of me.

“Leah’le,” she crows. “Mein gorgeous meideleh.”

I pick up a pan, pretending to consider whether it would hold a lasagna large enough to feed my small family. This is why I’d stayed in the house. This is exactly why, I shout at Dovid in my head.

Because our neighbors, like Mrs. Katz, don’t just wave their hands in greeting while you are on the way to the supermarket. They come over with pity in their eyes, and I have to bite my tongue so hard it bleeds. And I have to train my eyes not to cry, and my cheeks to blush slightly while we exchange pleasantries. And all the while, a voice inside my head is yelling, The baby is gone! The baby is gone!

Mrs. Katz’s eyes are blue and round, and she wraps all of me in a hug. “I heard what happened, meideleh. Oy, oy, oy, oy.”

I breathe against her chest. She holds me tight and a strange part of me doesn’t want to let go.

She pulls apart, searching my face for clues. “Nu, are you okay?” she wonders.

Why did I think I could do this? Why did I think I could go outside, meet people, and not break?

I drop the pan; it lands on my foot and then stays stagnant on the floor. I turn on my heel and run.

“Are you all right?” Mrs. Katz shouts after me.

Do I look all right?

I catch my breath outside in the cool air. Gulping and crying.

“Dovid.” My voice is hoarse when he finally answers.

“Where are you, Leah? I came home and—” His voice trails. “Are you okay?”

“Stop asking me that! Why are you asking me that?” I yell into the receiver. “I am done with everybody wondering if I am okay. Of course I am not okay! We waited for twelve years, and I was so sure and we were so happy and thankful and we had plans… I had plans and then there was no heartbeat and—” I cover my mouth with my hand to stop the sobs from coming but they come regardless, fizzing and cascading, forcing my chest to expand and rupture. I am crying like a madwoman in front of Target.

He lets me scream and cry, and his voice is eerily calm when he asks, “Where are you? I’m coming to get you.”

All the fight has left me. “I went to Target to get a plant, or a couch. I wanted the room to be full, and I thought I could go by myself, but then I saw Mrs. Katz and she asked me if I am fine. I am not fine. And then I dropped a pan on my foot, and now I have nothing. I think I stubbed my toe.”

“You think you stubbed your toe?” he asks, concerned.

“No, yeah, no. I don’t know.” I am losing my mind.

“Okay, wait right where you are. Don’t move. I’m coming to get you.”

Dovid is here. We sit in silence as he drives home with the windows rolled down. The tears are dry on my face.

“I am not okay either,” he whispers.

“Good, I was feeling a little bit lonely,” I say sarcastically.

He cracks a smile. “You were, huh?”

I nod. I want him to continue talking because I am not going to.

“Can we talk about not being okay? Can we be not okay together?” he asks, and I am so glad he does.

“Yes. Please. Not now, though. I just want to go home.”

Outside the white van is gone. I see the tracks on the grass, so I know I didn’t imagine its lengthy stay. I would have liked to see it drive away. I would have liked to see it leave. Just as I have.

I call Rechy.

“We missed you at the wedding,” she says at the same time I say, “Thank you for the flowers. All the flowers. Some of them are dead.”

There is a silence. Rechy is never quiet. I think she is pumping her fists in the air, smiling with joy.

“I am glad you like them.” I can hear her restraining the joy in her voice. “If I come over, will you let me in?” she asks tentatively. “We won’t have to talk. I’ll just sit next to you.”

I stand in the center of my dark kitchen in front of the flowers. I turn on the light and blink until I adjust to all the glory that light can be. My toe is hurting, my eyes still feel raw, and suddenly it occurs to me that Dovid will have to drive me back to Target to get my car.

“Please let me come. I feel like you are about to say yes, say yes, say yes.” Rechy is jumping. “Please say yes. I miss seeing you so much.”

I count to five, wash my hands, and open the fridge. “You can come help me make supper. I’m thinking French fries and lo mein.”


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 898)

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