| First of All |

First of All: Chapter 10   

      Mike has a strict “we don’t post photos of ourselves to the public” rule. Which I respect one hundred percent


I go over the showroom kitchen layout in front of me. It looks great, I just need to ensure I’m maximizing the space. Maximize the sp— jerk. Wow, I almost fell asleep there.

I’m scared to look over at Shira, but I take a quick peek, and she’s busy with mudroom designs for the Lowens. I’m exhausted. No one said shanah rishonah was so tiring! Isn’t it supposed to be relaxing? Dinners out, spontaneous vacations, lazy Shabbos afternoon walks?

I look at my plans again. Lighting. I need to rethink lighting. Every designer has used the hanging lantern look since 2020, and as much as I love it, I need something new, something fresh. Jerk. Ohmygosh, I need sleep. Or at least a break.

Setting the timer on my phone to five minutes, I head to my seminary chat for some mindless distraction. It’s cute, Rivki Cohen just had twins, kids five and six, and everyone’s panicking. But I’m more interested in statuses… I scroll through photos. Florida, Florida, Israel, Florida, skiing, restaurant, American Dream candy store, more American Dream candy store. And almost every single one is a photo of a former classmate with her husband, smiling happily. Kids are usually the next slide, in adorable matching clothes, with perfect poses.

Mike has a strict “we don’t post photos of ourselves to the public” rule. Which I respect one hundred percent. But I waited a really long time to join the party, and we have really stunning pictures from Florida, sunsets and beaches and food, all #nofilter. Oh, well. I wouldn’t have it any other way, I guess.

My timer beeps, and I shut it quickly, straightening my shoulders. Back to work. I chug down half of my lukewarm coffee, and it’s back to examining my plans. I’m obsessing over the details, but that’s where it all lies.

I’m in love with the cabinets I’ve chosen; I just hope Lara will like them as much as I do. I wouldn’t mind having these in my own dream home one day. I wonder if keeping house is easier if you love the decor and layout, if you’ve chosen every aspect of your home, deliberated and agonized over every door handle. If we lived in a gorgeous home, would Mike be more inspired to say, wipe crumbs off the table and not hang his various davening jackets, talleisim, and coats all over the dining room chairs?

And if we had this integrated dishwasher… mmm. Then maybe the crockpot wouldn’t sit in the sink from Shabbos to Shabbos, like Sarah Imeinu’s candles.

Well, my dream house will have to wait, but time to order an integrated dishwasher and fridge for the showroom. Unless I should go with an old-fashioned looking fridge instead? Like real retro, all shiny cream with long steel handles? I google these for a minute but come back to the integrated. It’s too in vogue not to showcase. I put in an order, wait for confirmation, and sit back, feeling very satisfied.

I look over at Shira again and then tilt my head, intrigued. Hmm, there’s something different about her, and my “shidduchim sensor” is going haywire. Okay, first of all, she looks great. I mean, she’s looked great for the past six years, but I feel like there’s something extra going on here.

She looks relaxed. Plus she’s been wearing her diamond studs for a week straight, and I know those are her special occasion earrings. And secondly, she smiled at me twice today. Plus complimented my choice in tiles. So call me suspicious, but something is happening. This girl is dating, and it’s getting serious.

The smell of café hash browns and bagels might just be one of the most comforting scents in the world. After coffee, of course.

Aryeh is looking at her, and she feels compelled to say something, but honestly, she’s still dazed from last night’s conversation about his promotion.

“Thanks for breakfast,” she finally says lamely.

He nods and goes to wash. She appreciates the gesture, café breakfast at home, two lattes steaming in disposable cups. He’s telling her he’s still here; they can still enjoy the leisure of this stage. But soon he’s going to head off to work, and she’s going back to bed for two hours. And later when she goes to pick up Mimi’s kids from school and brings them home with her so Mimi can do errands, he’ll still be at work. And when she drops them off and then heads out to Rebbetzin Rosengarten’s shiur, he still won’t be home. So while breakfast is very nice, it feels a bit like a bribe to her.

She gets up to wash, and they eat in silence. “Has it always been that way?” she says suddenly.

He looks up. There’s a bit of egg dangling from his chin, and she can’t help smiling.

He smiles back and wipes his chin. “Has what always been what way?”

She takes a scalding sip. “Have you always felt like you need to work in order to feel valuable? Because all these years, I thought it was just a means to support your family. Not an end in any way, shape, or form.”

Aryeh reaches for the salt, remembers his sodium levels, and puts it back.

“Why can’t it have been both? I so much wanted to give you everything you deserved, while also enjoying the feeling of strength and success that comes with doing well. And now, yes, I accepted the promotion because it makes me feel young. Alive.” He looks at her, his eyes asking her to understand, begging her to.

Why don’t I make you feel young and alive? Toby thinks sorrowfully.

But all she says is, “I’ll send Mimi’s kiddos your love.” I wish you were coming with me, she adds silently.

Aryeh stands, stretches, and goes to bring bentshers. “And then we’ll head out for sushi tonight?”

Toby blinks. “We will?” she says, an edge to her voice.

He hands her a bentsher. “Weekly date night. Have you forgotten?”

Sha smiles calmly, thanks him, and wonders why they can’t have date night every day, like she’d dreamed of.

Mike is bustling around the kitchen, doing dishes and sweeping industriously. I guess I wasn’t that subtle when I told him about the dishwasher I hoped to have in our future home. Ohhh, well.

I’m working studiously through a plate of cut-up fruit, slightly spaced out, humming along with Avraham Fried as I munch on an apple slice, when my phone rings. Which is weird, because, hi, who calls people anymore? I look at the screen.

“It’s Mommy,” I say to Mike, slightly shocked. He lowers the music; I pick up hesitantly.

“Hi, Ma, how are you?” I ask, trying to think when was the last time she called me.

She texted me this morning, and yesterday, and there was that whole chat about the linen sale at Rockland Kosher, but I honestly can’t remember the last phone call.

“Doing good, Bay, how are you?”

“Baruch Hashem.” I’m quiet, but she doesn’t continue, so I blabber on. “We just finished dinner. I made baked French toast, which is technically a breakfast food, but it was heaven.”

“Sounds delicious. And fattening,” Ma says warmly. “Anyway, I have some time tomorrow, do you want to grab lunch?”

I actually take the phone away from my ear and blink at it. Lunch? I work.

“I wish, Ma,” I say, putting the phone back. “I have a meeting with Lara to go over the kitchen designs.”

“Oooh, fancy. Okay, no worries. We’ll rain-check, then. Love you, sweetie.”

And she’s off before I even have a chance to reply. It takes me a minute to lower the phone from my ear.

“What,” I say slowly to Mike, “just happened?”

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 788)

Oops! We could not locate your form.