| Building Dreams |

Building Dreams: Chapter 34  

It was a crazy plan but I didn’t say anything. Nothing would happen with this plan either




ovid, are you listening?” Yitzchok demanded. I wasn’t really. Zalman said he was going to let me copy a mezuzah onto klaf today, and I really didn’t want to be late. But this was also important, so I snapped back to reality.

“I’m with you,” I said, noticing Avi and Zev exchange glances.

“Yeah, okay,” Zev said. “So total change of plans because there’s no way we can break into the British headquarters.”

“They’re too well guarded — I saw it for myself,” Yitzchok added. “We’re going to need to find a British official on his own. That’s our only chance.”

“Make it a top official,” Avi growled. “If we waste our chances on a little guy, what kind of message will we be sending?”

“None, that’s what,” Zev answered Avi’s rhetorical question.

And what are our chances of reaching one of the big guys? I was about to say, but I held myself back. Zalman was supposed to be meeting with me any minute, and I still had to get to the grocery store where we said we would meet. If this conversation continued any longer, I’d miss my chance, and Zalman didn’t have more time until next week. Instead, all I did was nod. I knew Avi and Zev were more brawn than brain. Even though they acted like this whole thing was their project, they hadn’t come up with one good idea. And so far, they hadn’t even done anything yet. As soon as I stopped talking, the conversation wound down with some vague talk of ambushing the British chief of police and stealing his car. Or something like that. It was a crazy plan but I didn’t say anything. Nothing would happen with this plan either.

“Okay, guys. Next week. Same time, same place,” Yitzchok finally said, and we disbanded. I rushed to the grocery store and was relieved to find Zalman still there.

“I was about to leave,” he said, spotting me. “What held you up?”

I shrugged, and we walked home together.

The house was quiet when we got there, but I could feel a sense of excitement that I couldn’t put my finger on.

“Mama?” I whispered loudly, walking into the kitchen where she was busy cooking.

“Dovid!” Mama greeted me warmly like she always does.

“Where’s Elka?” I asked, noticing Miriam at the table folding blintzes.

“She went to Faiga’s house,” Miriam replied. “Bubbe sent a letter inviting Elka to visit for two weeks in the summer.” Miriam’s voice was sweet as ever but I could hear something else in it, too.

“Are you going, too?” I asked, curious.

Miriam shook her head, looking a little sad. But then she went back to the blintzes and it was almost as though I had imagined it.

“Okay,” I replied, losing interest. So Elka was going to Europe. Big deal. I didn’t even want to go, anyway. “I’m going to practice safrus with Zalman.” I turned around and left, eager to pick up that feather quill again and scratch it against the paper. There was something so calming about it. But it was a skill, too, and I was going to get it all down pat. Perfect. I had a year until my Bar Mitzvah, and I knew what I wanted. By the end of the year, I wanted to be a real, up and coming sofer. But as I walked the short distance to Zalman’s room and knocked on the door, I realized something. What would happen if I was fighting the British? It was already hard to juggle the two things. Could I be a sofer and get the British off our soil at the same time?



“Mama!” I called, bounding through the door after coming back from Faiga’s house. Then I remembered that Yisroel and Leiba were sleeping and quickly lowered my voice. Mama said I could only go to Bubbe and Zeide if I was really helpful, and waking everyone up would not be helpful. “Mama,” I whispered, entering the kitchen, “guess what?”

Mama turned toward me and wiped her hand on her apron. She gave a small smile at my excitement. “What?” she asked. “What did Faiga say that’s so exciting?”

“Faiga said her neighbor is going to Europe this summer, too. Their son is getting married or something like that. Do you think they could take me? Do you?”

I paused, breathless, waiting for a reply. I knew the biggest problem with this trip was that I couldn’t travel alone, and here was the answer. Here was someone traveling, if not all the way to Riga, then to a city nearby where my grandparents could meet me.

Mama looked thoughtful but still hadn’t responded, so I burst out again, “Can we send a letter to Bubbe? Tell her I’ll be coming and she can send me tickets?”

“Let me talk to Yocheved’s neighbors,” Mama finally replied. “The Scheiners are the ones going?”

I nodded.

“I’ll ask them when they’re leaving, and we’ll take it from there.”

“Now, Mama?” I begged. “Can you go ask them now?”

“I’ll speak to them tomorrow,” Mama said firmly. “Now it’s time for you to go to bed. Did you finish your homework yet?”

I nodded solemnly and quickly walked to the next room to get into pajamas. I told Mama I’d behave, so even though I was too excited to sleep, I climbed into bed and lay down quietly.

The next few days were very busy, and it was already Thursday by the time Mama had a chance to talk to Mrs. Scheiner. But she said I could travel with them, and we carefully wrote the letter to Bubbe telling her when I would be arriving. We bought the tickets ourselves, though. Bubbe would pay for them, but since I needed to go with the Scheiners, we had to buy the same tickets they did. It would be a long trip, and most of the time we’d be speeding through Europe by train. But the trip was still a month away, so for now, all I could do was dream.

“Here, Mama,” I said, handing her the pan of grated potatoes for the kugel she was making.

“Thank you, Elka,” she said, taking the pan from me and putting it on the stove. “It must have been a lot of work for you. You did a great job.”

Yes. It was a lot of work. So was the laundry I was helping with. And the cleanup. And I didn’t even complain once about taking care of Leiba. I even washed Yisroel’s diapers, which is something I never offered to do before. But I wanted to go to Europe. I wanted to go so badly. And I had promised Mama I would help her.

“Dovid,” I whispered, the night before my trip, “I’m so excited, I can barely sleep!”

“I just hope Europe is everything you’re hoping it will be,” Dovid replied sleepily. “I know you think you remember it, but you were really young when we left. It’s probably really different than you remember.”

Was Europe really that different than I expected? Could I be wrong about wanting to go back?

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 932)

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