I knew Mama was right. A Seder without Papa? What would that even look like?
The meeting on Monday turned out to be a total waste of time. Avi’s “weapon” was just some rope and a kitchen knife I could have taken out of my mother’s kitchen.
“That’s what you brought?” I asked Avi, incredulously. “A kitchen knife?”
“Do you have any better ideas?” Avi countered. “I told you — we need to stockpile anything we can get our hands on, and rope and a knife can be very useful.”
I held back a snort. Partnering with these guys had been Yitzchok’s idea, and until now, I had found them helpful. But really, thinking about it, they were just using my ideas and building on them — pretty unsuccessfully, I might add. We were no closer to sneaking into the British headquarters than we were three weeks ago. “Fine,” I said, reigning in the desire to leave them to themselves and come up with my own plan. “Where do we go from here?” Even if I came up with a plan, there was no way I could carry it out on my own.
“I’d say we just do it,” Yitzchok interrupted. “Tomorrow. We can break into their car garage. Split up like we planned and get moving. What are we waiting for?”
Avi shifted and Zev looked around uncomfortably. Were they scared? Because I couldn’t drive, and a big part of the plan was making off with two British cars for future operations.
“No,” I said, remembering Zalman’s promise to teach me safrus tomorrow. “Tomorrow won’t work.” Avi and Zev looked relieved, which was actually quite concerning, but I couldn’t think about that now.
Yitzchok looked at me and folded his arms. “Are we doing this, or not?”
“Yes.” I nodded assuredly. “But I have something I have to do tomorrow, and if I don’t show up, someone will suspect something. We need to pick the right time.”
Yitzchok seemed to accept that because he unfolded his arms and nodded. “But this is it. One more meeting, and then we’ll go for it.”
I nodded. Not because I thought we would be ready after one more meeting but because if we didn’t jump in, we would never actually do anything. One more meeting. Two weeks. It seemed perfect.
I was whistling as I walked home, Zalman at my side. Safrus had never interested me before, but Zalman made it look so exciting. That and the fact that my bar mitzvah was only a little over a year away. All this would actually be practical soon when we got me a pair of tefillin.
“Are we going to be writing today?” I asked, glancing over at Zalman as I spoke. He wasn’t carrying any supplies, but maybe that was because he kept them in his room in my apartment.
“A little.” Zalman nodded. “I want to see how you are with the basics. But mostly we’ll be learning halachos today. Are you artistic at all?”
I thought about it. “Dunno.” I shrugged. “I don’t think I’ve ever tried. But my sister is, so maybe I am too.”
Zalman flashed me a smile. “Well,” he said, “we’ll see.”
Dovid walked in through the door with Zalman at just the wrong moment. Yisroel was almost asleep. Almost. And of course the sound of Dovid walking through the door had him jumping up excitedly, and there went bedtime. And tonight, that was a problem.
“Mama,” I whispered after Yisroel had actually fallen asleep. “Do you think we’ll still have time to start getting ready for Pesach?”
Pesach. It was a big job every year. We made our own wine for the Seder, and in Chevron, Papa had even baked all of our matzos himself. With Purim over, we needed to start getting ready for Pesach right away or we’d never have everything ready in time.
“I’m not sure how much we’ll actually get done,” Mama said slowly, “but let’s start, at least.”
I looked at Mama expectantly.
“We’ll start by going through the old clothing. Maybe there are some things in there for Miriam, Leiba, and Yisroel. I might have to alter them a little to fit, and that will take some time.”
“Okay,” I said as Miriam came into the kitchen to join us.
“Dovid and Zalman have been working for a really long time,” Miriam said.
“Um hmm,” I agreed. “We’re taking out the old clothing to see if there’s anything we can use for the summer. Want to join?”
“Sure,” Miriam said.
We watched as Mama climbed up into the boidem and pulled down a familiar stack of clothing. I had just gone through these same outfits to find things to use for Purim. Behind them was another stack and then a third. When all the clothing had been pulled down, Mama sat down at the table and started to sort through it. I reached for a pile and started organizing by size.
“We have a lot to do before Pesach,” I said, breaking the silence while our hands worked.
“We always do,” Mama replied, “but I was thinking it might not be as much work this year.”
I paused what I was doing and looked up. What did Mama mean?
“I thought we could eat with Yocheved and Baruch.” Mama hadn’t looked up when she said it, and I got the feeling that she was intentionally avoiding my gaze. Not Miriam, though. She was staring at me.
“What?” I said to Miriam, exasperatedly.
“I’m just waiting for you to protest,” Miriam responded mildly.
“Not true,” I contradicted her.
“So you’re okay with spending the whole Pesach with Faiga?”
Okay, fine, so Miriam was right. I wasn’t about to accept this idea. But now I couldn’t say anything without looking like a fool.
“Oh, look, Miriam,” I said, pulling out an old white linen dress that had been mine. It was still beautiful and would fit Miriam but we both knew that I was really just trying to change the topic.
“I remember that dress,” Miriam said, tugging it gently out of my hands and putting it on over the dress she was wearing. She was letting me avoid the conversation, even helping me. She’s like that, my little sister. But the conversation was far from over, and we both knew it.
A quiet descended over us as we sorted and folded, making a nice pile of possibilities for the younger kids. We were close to finishing when Mama spoke up.
“I thought it would be nice to spend the Seder with Yocheved and Baruch. It would be more normal. More regular.” More like it would have been if Papa were alive. She didn’t say that, but those words hung in the air as if they had been said. I knew Mama was right. A Seder without Papa? What would that even look like? Images of Papa rose in my mind: dressed in his beautiful white kittel, sitting in front of an overflowing cup of wine. I forced them out of my head.
“Dovid can lead the Seder,” I said, “or you, Mama.”
Mama looked at me sadly, and I felt bad that I had said anything. But I really didn’t want to go to Baruch and Yocheved. Why did we always do everything with them?
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 929)
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