Mama didn’t bring Bubbe’s letter up again, so I knew we weren’t moving to Europe. There was nothing to talk about
he house was quiet when I got home. The bochurim weren’t back yet, and the little kids were asleep. Even Miriam and Elka were in their beds. Only Mama was up in the kitchen waiting for me.
“Dovid’l?” Mama called out, “is that you?”
“Yes, Mama,” I replied, stepping into the kitchen.
“Are you okay, Dovid?”
Mama looked worried. Somewhere in my chest, I felt a little flutter of panic. Did Elka say something?
“I’m fine, Mama,” I said, trying to keep my voice calm and steady. “Why?”
“You’re just a little late, that’s all,” Mama replied. “Are you hungry?”
I nodded, and she stood up to get a bowl down from the shelf. “I can serve myself, Mama,” I protested, reaching for the bowl, but Mama waved me off.
“No, no. I’ll serve you. My Dovid’l — my budding talmid chacham. You spend your whole day in yeshivah. Rest now, and I’ll serve you some food.”
If there was any way to make me feel guilty, that was it. Mama wanted to see me learning, but I wasn’t. Even when I was learning with my chavrusa, and that was happening less and less these days, my head wasn’t in it. I couldn’t focus.
“You know, Dovid,” Mama sat down across from me and placed the china bowl down in front of my place, “we had some excitement here today.”
“Really?” I asked, lifting my spoon and making a brachah before taking a bite. “What did I miss?”
“Bubbe wrote. She wants us to come move to Riga and live near her.”
“Really?” I said again, my mind racing. Was this the answer to my problems? Move the family to Riga and away from Yitzchok, to a place I would have no choice but to drop my plans against the British soldiers?
“That’s what she wrote,” Mama clarified, “but we’re not going.”
I looked across at Mama waiting for her to finish.
“Elka really wants to move. I don’t know what she thinks she’ll find in Riga. Do you remember Bubbe?”
I nodded. I did. Sort of.
“Well, Elka thinks all her problems will be solved if we move to live near Bubbe. That’s not how problems are solved, you know — picking up and moving. It just creates new problems.”
I nodded again, but I wasn’t really sure what Mama meant. Was there some sort of hidden message in there for me? But then Mama was off onto another topic, and I was able to breathe again.
The most important thing right now was that Elka hadn’t told. My secret was safe and so, it seemed, were our plans. It looked like I’d be getting to risk my life after all.
Mama didn’t bring Bubbe’s letter up again, so I knew we weren’t moving to Europe. There was nothing to talk about. I went to school, came home, back to school each day.
“Elka?” Faiga whispered to me in school one day when the teacher’s back was turned. We still shared a desk, even though I wished we could switch. I’d sit next to Miriam. Or Tziporah. Or anyone, really, as long as it wasn’t Faiga.
“Hmm?” I asked. But the teacher turned around just then, so Faiga couldn’t answer. “What?” I whispered as soon as the teacher had turned back around to the board to do the math problem written there.
“What are you dressing up as for Purim?”
Purim? Was Faiga serious? Purim was a month away. We always just dressed up in whatever we had. An old robe. A funny hat. One year, Dovid borrowed an elaborate Sephardi kaftan. “Why are you thinking about Purim already?” I asked her as soon as the teacher dismissed us for recess.
“I want to sew costumes for everyone,” she explained. “Yisroel can be Mordechai, and we can make Devorah and Leiba into beautiful Queen Esthers. And then maybe we’ll even be able to convince my parents to take us to Tel Aviv for the Purim parade.”
“Parade?” I asked. In Chevron, we didn’t have a parade and I hadn’t heard anything about one in Tel Aviv either.
“It’s really exciting,” Faiga said, her voice rising as she began to describe the acts and entertainments. “Not that we ever went,” she added, her voice falling a little, “but maybe this year…”
I started to get excited too.
“Forget about it,” Tzipporah interjected, pausing as she passed by. “I heard they canceled it this year.”
“What?” Faiga gasped and my hopes fell. “Why?”
“Because of all the Arab riots this past summer and everything,” Tzipporah explained.
Faiga was quiet suddenly, and Tzipporah, noticing Faiga’s face, started fidgeting with a stray thread sticking out of her sleeve. It took me a moment, but then I realized why they were both acting so strange. The Arab riots. This past summer. Papa was killed and now because of those same stupid Arabs there was no Purim parade either. I thought back to Dovid and suddenly understood how he was feeling. But I wasn’t angry. Dovid was angry; I was just sad.
“Um,” Faiga began awkwardly, “so, okay. There’s no parade. But I really want to make nice costumes.”
“How?” I asked.
“We can take some old clothing from our houses and sew them into some really great costumes. And if we start now, we’ll be finished in time for Purim.”
After school, I waited for Faiga and we walked home together — something we hadn’t done in a long time.
“Let’s gather a whole bunch of old clothing today and we’ll ask our mothers if we can use them to make costumes,” I enthused, moving out of the way of the dirty sponja water that was pouring out of a hole in the wall of the apartment above us.
“And maybe my mother will let us use some of her fancy buttons,” Faiga offered. “We can sew them on a jacket for Yisroel and he’ll really look like a king’s officer.”
“Or we can make him Haman,” I suggested, laughing at the thought of sweet little Yisroel dressed up as Haman.
As soon as I got home, Yisroel in tow, I set out to find any old, outgrown clothing that might have been in storage. Miriam was doing her homework, and for once Leiba was busy playing with Yisroel and wasn’t interested in bothering me. Very quietly, so as not to arouse any suspicion, I pulled a chair up to the boidem in the kitchen. Way up near the ceiling we had a storage area where Mama put our old things. I couldn’t reach it just by standing on the chair, so I pulled over the table and balanced the chair on top of it. There. I reached up and pulled out the box filled with our old clothing. Dresses from Miriam that were still too big for Leiba, boys clothing waiting for Yisroel to grow. One by one, I pulled things out, taking care to keep it neatly folded as I did. When I got to Papa’s old jacket, I stopped. It would be a perfect beketshe for Dovid. But should I show it to him? Did I even want to?
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 927)
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