“Ima! Ima!”

“Calm down, Meir,” said my father. “Before you panic, we should consider a logical explanation.”

My heart is lodged in my throat. Where is my mother? Where is little Yael?

Abba dials Ima’s number. It rings and rings, until finally I hear her voice on the loudspeaker. “Hello? Yosef?”

“Sarah, is everything alright?”

“I hope so,” I hear her reply. “The hospital called me to come in right away. Leah’s vital signs are irregular.”

“What happened?”

“Nobody knows. She was fine this afternoon when I visited her with Meir. There were even some encouraging signs of improvement in her condition. This evening her blood pressure spiked, then dropped, and then rose again. “

“Maybe she has some kind of infection?”

“We’re waiting for her tests to come back, but the initial results are normal. She doesn’t have a fever, which is a good sign.”

“Where is Yael?” my father asks.

“I didn’t have very many options,” Ima explains. “I couldn’t bring her with me to the hospital and I didn’t want to disturb you at shul, so I took a chance and asked our neighbor Shuly on the second floor to watch her. She teaches at a special ed school so I hoped she could manage until you could pick her up.”

“Excellent. If Yaeli agreed to stay without you, it’s progress for her. Just a minute.” Abba turns to me. “You know the Kurniks on the second floor? Ima says Yael is there. Do you mind bringing her home?”

Of course I agree, though I’d rather stay and find out about my biological mother’s condition. Mrs. Kurnik assures me that Yael behaved well and that she can come and play again whenever she wants. Yael skips and dances down the hall, so I guess she had a good time at the neighbor’s house.

We come home. Abba is on the phone with someone else now. From what I can hear it sounds like a medical askan. They are discussing bringing in a specialist for my mother. Yaeli tags along behind me into the kitchen. I scan the contents of the fridge before taking out eggs, milk and butter, cucumbers and tomatoes. I’ll make omelets for supper. It won’t be as tasty as my mother’s, but at least we won’t be hungry.

While I’m occupied at the stove I hear Yael moving around behind me. There are sounds of a chair dragging and cabinet doors opening and closing. As soon as I’ve carefully spilled the egg mixture into the sizzling butter for the first omelet I turn around to see what my little sister’s up to.

Wow, I don’t believe it — Yael is setting the table all by herself! Without prompting she took the right number of plates and put them in our regular places. The glasses are on a shelf too high for her to reach even with a chair, so I put them down on the countertop. She carries them carefully to the table. “You’re fantastic!” I tell her. “Wait until Abba sees what you did! What will Ima say when we tell her?”

Yael ducks her head, but she’s grinning. She’s proud of herself and I’m glad. This little girl’s come a long way since her first day when she hid under the table.

(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 732)