| Building Dreams |

Building Dreams: Chapter 24 

“You heard what Bubbe wrote in the letter. It’s obvious that Mama’s nervous. What do you think is going on?”



Mama was coming home early this afternoon to take Yisroel to the doctor, so I didn’t have to rush home from school. Miriam, Leiba, and I slowly walked towards our house from the school building, Leiba jumping in every puddle we passed. Usually, we didn’t let her. Her socks would get wet and her shoes would get wet, and how would we dry them? But today was calm, relaxed, and Leiba jumped to her heart’s content. I would take care of her socks and shoes when we got home.

“What do you think is going on with Dovid?” I asked Miriam suddenly. We didn’t usually talk about what was going on in our family, but Faiga wasn’t with us today — she had to rush home even though we didn’t.

“He’s angry,” Miriam said shortly in that quiet way of hers.

“I know,” I grimaced. Why did Miriam always have to be so placid? “But what’s going on with him? Why is Mama nervous about him?”

“What makes you think Mama’s nervous?” Miriam asked.

“You heard what Bubbe wrote in the letter. It’s obvious that Mama’s nervous. What do you think is going on?”

Miriam just shrugged her shoulders and ran to catch Leiba who had skipped a little too far ahead, leaving me to think about it all by myself.

Dovid was angry, that much was clear. And I even knew who he was angry at — the British. As for why, well, I was still not sure why. I could understand if he hated the Arabs, but why the Brits? They didn’t kill Papa.

I was pretty sure I was the only one who knew why Dovid was angry.  He had told me before we even left Chevron, but now he was being all secretive about things. I resolved to let Mama know what I knew, as soon as I could. It would be terrible if Dovid got into trouble when there was someone who could help him.

As it turned out, I didn’t get the chance to tell Mama anything.

“What’s this?” I asked, pointing to the note waiting for us on the table when we got home. I lifted the note and began to read it out loud.


“Dear Elka and Miriam, Dr. Kagan has suggested that I take Yisroel to the eye hospital near Yaffo Street. She believes he has an eye infection that may be contagious and needs to be treated. After lunch, please go to Faiga’s house and stay there until I come to get you. Leave this letter on the table so Dovid will see it when he comes home.”


I put down the note and went into the kitchen to heat up the lunch Mama had prepared. I hoped Yisroel was okay; if the doctor said to take him to the hospital, that wasn’t a good thing, was it? But even with my concern for Yisroel, I felt a pinprick of annoyance. Why did we have to go to Faiga’s house? It was always Faiga, Faiga, Faiga. And Yocheved and Baruch always acted like they thought they were our parents. I just couldn’t handle it.

“Do you think Yisroel will be okay?” Miriam asked.

When had she sat down at the table? She had come in so quietly.

“I hope so,” I murmured. “I guess we’ll know tonight.”

“Yeah.” Miriam trailed off, taking the steaming plate of potatoes I handed to her.

When we finished eating, we all bundled up in our coats and got ready to head to Faiga’s house. It was a little difficult for Leiba because her socks and shoes still hadn’t dried. She peeled off her wet socks and put on dry ones, but there was nothing to be done about her shoes. By the time we got to Faiga’s house, Leiba’s clean, dry socks were soaking wet again.

“Come in,” Faiga called from inside the house, and we let ourselves in. She looked up from the table where she was helping Bracha with her homework. “Where’s Yisroel?” she asked.

“Mama had to take him to the hospital,” I explained. “She said we should stay here and she’ll pick us up later.”

“Oh!” Faiga made a sad face. “I hope he’s okay. Bracha, sit down. You’re not done yet!” But it was too late. Bracha and Leiba had already scampered off to play, Leiba leaving wet footprints across the tiled floor. “Forget it — Mama will just be mad at her for not doing her homework,” Faiga sighed. “And she’s always too tired by the time Mama comes home.”

I pulled out my own homework and sat down in the place Bracha had just vacated.

We were in the middle of holding the little girls by their feet and racing them, wheelbarrow style, across the room, when Yocheved walked in.

“Hi, Mama,” Faiga called from across the room, letting Leiba fall to the floor.

“How was your day, Faiga’le?” Yocheved asked wearily, plopping onto one of the dining room chairs. “Elka,” she said, turning to me without even pausing to hear Faiga’s response, “you’re still here? Won’t your Mama be worried about you?”

I suddenly felt silly holding Bracha upside down by her feet, so I let go. “Yeah. Um, Mama’s not home,” I stopped.

“She went to the hospital with Yisroel,” Miriam chimed in. “He has an infection in his eye.”

“Yeah, but Mama should have been home by now,” I added worriedly, “what’s taking so long?”

Yocheved looked at me gently for a moment. I hate that gentle look. That poor little orphans look people always get when they find out Papa was killed. “Things can take a long time at the hospital,” Yocheved said finally, rising to her feet. “Don’t worry. Come, if you’re going to be here anyway, have something to eat.  I’ll serve you supper.”

“It’s fine,” I said hastily, “we’ll eat when we get home.”

“I’m hungry now,” Leiba whined. I glared at her, but it was too late. Cousin Yocheved was already motioning to us to sit down.

Everyone sat down to eat except me. “I’m not hungry,” I mumbled and pulled out my dikduk homework. I had done it with Faiga already, but at least it would look like I was doing something.

Miriam and Leiba were still in the middle of eating their vegetable soup when Mama knocked on the door.

I pounced on her the minute she stepped inside. “How’s Yisroel?”

“Wait, Elka,” Yocheved admonished me. “Let your mother catch her breath for a moment and then she’ll tell you. Rivka,” she turned to Mama, “come sit down. Have some soup. It must have been a hard day.”

Watching Mama sink into the chair, I felt a little bad for asking her questions before she sat down. Still, what right did Yocheved have to correct me? Mama was right there — why did Yocheved feel the need to act like she was my mother? If Mama had wanted to tell me off, she would have.

“Yisroel’s going to be fine,” Mama finally said, as a steaming bowl was placed in front of her. “Im Yirtzeh Hashem he’ll be out of there soon. Until he gets out, though, I’m going to need a lot of help.” She looked at me pointedly, and I nodded. I would help Mama — but I wouldn’t ask Yocheved or Faiga for help. No. Matter. What.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 922)

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