| Building Dreams |

Building Dreams: Chapter 26

I thought that now that Yisroel was back, everything would be back to normal



“Yisroel!” I shrieked, scooping him up into my arms and planting a big kiss on his cheek. He looked exactly the same. Maybe a little skinnier than before he went to the hospital, but otherwise my same delicious Yisroel. “Thank you,” I added breathlessly to his babysitter, Morah Nechama, who was watching me greet him.

“You’re welcome.” Morah Nechama smiled at me.  “We’re glad to have him back, too.”

Normally, I’d let him walk some of the way home, but today, I carried Yisroel all the way to our apartment.

“Yisroel!” Miriam greeted us excitedly as we got to the door. She held out her hands and took him from me, smothering his tiny face in kisses.

“What’s for lunch?” I asked Miriam. Yisroel was probably hungry, and he hadn’t had Mama’s cooking in days. Who knew what they served them in the hospital? It couldn’t be that good, that was for sure.

Miriam looked at me for a second, then diverted her gaze back to Yisroel. “Mama left a note saying we should go to Yocheved’s for lunch.”

I made a face. Ugh. Go to Faiga’s house for lunch again. I thought that now that Yisroel was back, everything would be back to normal.

“I knew you’d complain,” Miriam said, glancing at my face. “And so did Mama, by the way. She wrote that she’s bringing home food from the Yeshivah for supper so we don’t have to eat at Yocheved’s house.”

I looked at Miriam, surprised, and went to the dining room table to check the note myself. Mama never took food from Yeshivah. She said there were enough hungry bochurim to finish off every last crumb and that she wouldn’t take food out of their mouths. And she was right. The bochurim who rented the bedroom of our apartment were always famished. Mama was always giving them some of our food because how could she serve us and not share with them?

“What? You don’t believe me?” Miriam demanded, noticing me looking at Mama’s note. “See what all your kvetching did. Even Mama knew how annoyed you were. What do you have against Faiga anyway?”

“Nothing,” I spat, letting the note flutter to the floor. “Come on. Let’s just go.”

Faiga was sitting at the table with Bracha when we let ourselves in, but as soon as she noticed Yisroel in my arms, she jumped up and ran to us.

“Yisroel,” she cheered, holding out her hands to take him from me. “Come on, Yisroel. Want to come to Faiga?” But even as he smiled at her, Yisroel pulled closer to me and refused to let go. Good boy. He knew whose side to be on.

“When did he get home?” Faiga asked, letting her hands drop to her side.

“This morning,” I said, giving Yisroel a tight squeeze. “I’m not sure what time. Mama just told me to pick him up from the babysitter like I usually do.”

“I’m so happy he’s okay,” Faiga replied. “We were all so worried about him.”

I looked at Faiga, trying to hide the surprise I was feeling. But come to think of it, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Of course they were worried about him. We all were. It was just…

“Did you eat lunch yet?” Faiga asked, breaking into my thoughts.

I shook my head.

“You can take. Chicken and rice. Help yourself — I have to go back to doing homework with Bracha.”

“Good luck with that,” I smirked, eyeing the corner where Leiba and Bracha were busy rocking their dolls to sleep.

“Yeah.” Faiga headed over to pull Bracha away from her game while I sat Yisroel down at the table and went to take some food.


Mama was going to be home tonight for the first time since Yisroel got sick. The problem was, I didn’t know that when I told Yitzchok (or Itzik, as he now wants to be called) that I could meet with Zev and Avi tonight to plan. Now I couldn’t go — Mama would be worried if I wasn’t home for supper the way I usually was. The way she expected me to be. But how could I not go? There was no way to cancel, and if I didn’t show up, they’d think I was a coward. I’d be left out of the whole thing — and it was my idea to begin with!

“Dovid?” The sound of my chavrusa calling my name jerked me back to my Gemara. “What do you think it means?”

I looked down and skimmed the words, trying to remember what we had been talking about. “Ummm,” I stalled. I had no clue what we were even looking at.

“Tosafos?” my chavrusa nudged, pointing to the place. “Where are you today, Dovid? Your head is totally not into things.”

I shrugged and looked back down at my Gemara. Maybe I really would be better off in a regular Talmud Torah instead of a Yeshivah for older boys. Maybe having a rebbi would have been better. “I need a break,” I muttered, closing my Gemara and standing up. “You go on without me.”

The air was cold outside and even though it wasn’t raining, I could see my breath puff out of my mouth in small clouds. No one was outside, and I was glad of it. The quiet. The cold. I huddled beneath my coat and let the chilled wind slice through my body. It made me feel alive and so, despite my fingers which were slowly turning numb, I stayed outside until I could hear the sounds of scraping chairs that signaled the end of seder.

Winding my way through the streets of Geula, I found myself at home right on time for supper.

“Mama,” I called warmly into the house, trying to invoke the security that always came to the house when Papa came home. My voice sounded weak even to my own ears. No matter what I did, I would never be able to fill the void that Papa used to fill.

“Come eat, Dovid’l,” Mama called from the kitchen. Like she always did. As if she had never left.

“How’s Yisroel?” I asked after swallowing my first spoonful of soup. I was itching to get out of here; hoping I wouldn’t get to our meeting spot after Yitzchok and everyone had already left. But I couldn’t let Mama sense that.

“Baruch Hashem,” Mama sighed, sitting across from me and blowing on her own bowl of soup. “Totally cured. He’s sleeping already, but you’ll see him in the morning.”

I nodded, then looked back at my bowl. A few more bites and I’d be done. Maybe I wouldn’t even be late.

“How have you been this whole time, Dovid?” Mama asked. I could see the concern in her eyes, though she worked hard to hide it.

“Fine,” I muttered, guilt pulsing through me.

“Dovid. My precious Dovid,” Mama said, stroking my hand. “I’m watching you grow up each day. My little Dovid. Almost a man. How Papa would have been proud to see you learning in Yeshivah each day.”

I sat there, unable to get up from my chair. I knew I was missing the meeting, but there was nothing I could do about it. Wasn’t this all for Papa, anyway? What would Papa think?

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 924)

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