| First of All |

First of All: Chapter 13

“Bayla, that siyum was incredible. I have no words. Ma, can you believe what she pulled off?”



ike is walking the guests out while I hyperventilate in the privacy of our living room.

Ma sits me down on the couch. “Bayla,” she says.

I look at her.

“Breathe. Just breathe. Slow, in and out.”

I exhale. “Ma, I’m breathing. That’s not the problem here. The problem is that I’m doomed. The showroom opens in four days. And I have nothing delivered yet. Nothing. The tiles and hardware are in a truck somewhere, the appliances are in a truck somewhere, the cabinets are on their way from Lakewood, but not here yet. So I have an empty kitchen on Cherry Street and pretty soon, my desk at Lara Cohen Design will be empty, and I’ll be working as an Amazon Prime delivery person.”

Ma raises her eyebrows. “Wow, that was dramatic, even for you.”

We both laugh, although I think my high-pitched cackle is just masking my sobbing.

Mike walks in and plops down on the couch across from us, stretching his legs out so they’re propped up on the coffee table.

“Bayla, that siyum was incredible. I have no words. Ma, can you believe what she pulled off?”

And he sits there beaming until our death looks finally cause him to sit up.

“What did I miss?” he asks.

I scoop plates into a garbage bag, and collect the chargers and napkin rings while muttering to myself. Mike knows how stressed I am, he knows I’m not managing, and he’s been at Maariv for over an hour.

Mind you, I thought he had davened at the minyan that took place at his very own siyum, but apparently, he had not. I have no answers for this phenomenon, these are just the facts. Ma sees me simmering and tries to calm me down, but honestly, I’m fed up.

I worked for days to put together a gorgeous siyum, just found out my job is imperiled, and he’s pulling some Mike Leiber shtick and disappearing. I collapse onto the couch. My feet hurt and I’m falling apart.

“New plan,” I announce to Ma as she comes in balancing two glasses of iced tea. “I am going to move onto this couch. It is safe and secure here and I can breathe. And I am not going to get up, even if the truckers all decide to start working tonight. Plus my husband has apparently vanished, and this is as good a spot as any to wait for him to remember he has an unemployed wife at home who could use his company.”

Ma puts the drinks on the coffee table, sits next to me, and squeezes my shoulder.

“Drink,” she says, making a brachah and taking a sip from her glass.

I say nothing, just look at her. How did everything go from so high to so low so quickly?

“Bayla,” Ma says, avoiding my gaze. “Listen. I’ve been married 40 years, and while I know very little about kitchen hardware, one thing I do know is that marriage, a good marriage, is always evolving. Things change, the formula doesn’t stay status quo. And you wouldn’t want it to.”

I look at her, realize suddenly that it’s eleven at night and she’s on the couch with me instead of home with Ta. I think how difficult it must be to attend her son-in-law’s siyum without her husband at her side. Mostly, though, I wonder where on earth Mike is and if I’m going to regret stewing self-righteously at home, while he bleeds out on a roadside somewhere.

Ma puts her glass down with a clink and I look at her.

“I hear you, Ma,” I say quietly. I really do. Mike and I have been married only eight months, but I know she’s right. We both keep changing.

“I didn’t think marriage involved so much growth,” I admit to her.

I’d been to seminary, I’d been an older single, I devoted those years to withstanding the maelstrom the world can be, and holding firm, strong, resilient. Then I’d reached the goal line, I landed on the island, I was able to finally, at long last, stop treading. And I find out that I need to keep swimming.

“It’s… not what I expected,” I say, looking Ma in the eye.

She looks back at me, steadily. She doesn’t look disappointed or disgruntled, and she emanates a calmness I don’t know if I’ll ever feel in this lifetime.

“Are you saying it gets easier, Ma?” I ask plaintively.

Ma smiles, and the door opens behind her.

“What I’m saying,” she answers as Mike walks into the room, very much alive, “is that you and Mike are exactly where you’re supposed to be.”

I look at my husband of eight months, who is grinning like he just surprised me with a kosher cruise, not sure I heard him correctly.

“You did a what with a who when?”

Mike jingles the keys at me.

“I rented a truck,” he beams at me. “From Budget. They were very, very closed, but I just knocked on their office window without stopping until they came to arrest me. And then I told them that my wife’s deliveries are held up because of the strike, and I really need a truck. And they said, ‘Yeah, you and two hundred other customers.’ But I stuck my foot in the door before they could slam it, and we started talking, and then they gave me the keys to a very small, very cute little truck, and said I could pick it from a Delaware parking lot in the morning. What, why are you staring at me?”

I look at Mike dazed, not really sure what had just happened. I need to finish cleaning up, not listen to wild stories. It’s eleven thirty at night. I need to go to sleep.

Ma is in shock. She keeps following me around while I open and close random drawers, saying, “Bayla! Bayla, this is meshugeh. Bayla, truckers are not people you want to get involved with. What are you thinking?”

Um, I’m thinking that I begged my boss to assign me the showroom kitchen and have nothing to show for it now. I’m thinking that I am going to be fired if these deliveries don’t come on time.

I’m going to have to let Lara know I won’t be in tomorrow. I hope she doesn’t ask why. I don’t how well she’ll take it if I tell her I’m going on a road trip with my husband.

Or of course, I could just tell her the truth. My new husband, whom I groan and gripe about way too much, who I was fuming at just tonight for leaving me alone in middle of a crisis, has just finagled a closed trucking company into renting us a truck so we can gallivant around the country picking up my various deliveries from all the stores they’re held up in.


to be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 791)

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