lean back on the large sectional and sigh loudly. Lani’s house is just so quiet. The kids are all sleeping, Batya is out with friends, and Aunt Lani and Uncle Avi won’t be back from dinner in the city for hours.

I go over the details of Aunt Lani’s dinner outfit enviously in my mind. The best part, of course, was her fur coat. Although it’s really the contrast with the blonde of her sheitel that made it so striking. My red hair just wouldn’t have the same effect.

I gaze around the room, trying to find something more exciting than Chumash notes to help pass the time. My gaze rests on a gorgeous, burnished armoire. Hmmm. Time to be nosy.

I heave myself off the couch and pad over to the closet. Yes, old photo albums!

Exactly what the doctor ordered.

I pause for just a second, unsure if they’re off-limits, and then shrug. Lani is one of the most open people I know; perhaps a little too open, if I’m being honest. I pull the first one off the shelf, an emerald green cardboard album, and snigger at the sticky plastic pages. The olden days were hysterical.

I settle back onto the couch and crack open the album. A much younger Savta Faye is smiling back at me, arms wrapped around two blonde little girls. A large Carvel cake box sits on the Formica table, balloons taped to the wooden chairs. I grin down at little Lani and Mommy. I turn the pages, drinking in the familiar faces, random paraphernalia dating the pictures like a captured time capsule — Cabbage Patch Dolls and Care Bears; Lite Brite and Polly Pockets. I’m laughing out loud, but then I begin to notice other things. Things like how the older Lani gets, the less Mommy appears next to her in pictures. In fact, the last five pages of the album has Mommy nowhere in sight. Strange…

I close the book and stretch, grinning. It is so fun to have a peek into family history. Mommy and Lani were adorable, and Uncles Nechemia and Chatzkel were such imps.

I head to the armoire and pull out a maroon album with a crumbling spine. It says Sem: 199 across it in huge puffy letters. I think it’s supposed to say 1999, but the neon pink puff paint cracked off at the last ‘9’.

I can’t stop smirking; I’m going to make so much fun of her….

I head to the kitchen for a snack, and perch on a barstool with a bag of SuperSnacks, the album open in front of me.

I picture Tamara’s face for a second, observing me eating SuperSnacks, and laugh out loud.

Ah, what she doesn’t know can’t offend her. I peer down at the first photo, munching with abandon.

I blink, unsure of what I’m seeing. The giggling blonde girl from the other album is nowhere to be seen. In her place is a pouty teenager with poofy hair swept back from her face and elegant purses draped over her arm. I recognize the fellow teenage angst; what I don’t recognize is Aunt Lani.

She has somehow completely transformed; she is no longer Eliana Rivka Martin. And once again, Mommy is nowhere to be seen. I flip the pages; I’m drooling over the funky ‘90s styles and so confused at the discrepancy between the two albums.

I lean forward, analyzing one picture of Lani facing the camera, a half smile lurking on her lips, eyelids lowered to hide her eyes.


(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 756)