First of All: Chapter 14| May 10, 2022
"I am — wait for it — going to turn off notifications on the Sisters chat group”
I’ve left the house without a sheitel. The thought occurs to me as I’m sitting in a rental car at a gas station at five in the morning, while Mike buys us what he has coined “reinforcements.” I lean my head against the glass, yawn loudly, and for the thousandth time ask myself if we are really doing this.
I check my phone. Last night’s terrifying message from Lara — DO you have everything under control? — is still there. So that wasn’t a nightmare, that was my boss doubting me.
I swipe to the sisters’ chat, but there are so many new messages, I’m overwhelmed. And for a family of eight, they are all unnervingly centered around me.
Anyone hear that the Leibers are on their way to Delaware to steal things from trucks or something like that.
Bad wedding present haul? They need more salt shakers?
Um, not lol. Can everyone be quiet? I pull down the mirror and do a quick check. Paint-splatter design tichel, check. Under-eye bags, check.
Mike comes out balancing two huge coffees and a plastic bag dangling from each wrist. Gotta love the kosher Shell station.
“Okay, one hazelnut latté for you, madam. Are we ready? Waze all set up? I won’t even tell you how much it’ll cost us to fill up the truck when we get our hands on it.”
I nod, not really trusting myself to speak. Why does it seem like he’s enjoying himself? And what does a panic attack feel like?
My phone pings. Bayla, BE SAFE. CALL ME. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Love you! Ma
Oh, far too late for that one, Ma.
“So let’s go over the route,” I tell Mike. “We should be getting to Delaware around 7:30, trade in the rental car, and pick up the truck. Then it’s another four and a half hours to Appliances Plus in Pennsylvania, three more hours to Tiles and Hardware in Newark, on to Lakewood for the cabinets, and then home sweet home.”
“Whatever you say, m’lady,” he says. “Let’s hit the road. But first: music.”
I wake with a start and peer at the clock — 6:15 a.m. So I’d been sleeping for an hour while poor Mike navigated by himself.
“Hi,” I say sheepishly. He starts and then gives me a sideways smile.
“Hi! How was that nap? I didn’t want to wake you, but I needed the music to keep myself up.”
I stretch and retie my tichel, then study Mike. He’s just so thoughtful.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this for me,” I say loudly.
He looks confused. “You mean for us.”
“Yeah,” I echo, leaning back in my seat and feeling a goofy smile spread across my face. “For us.”
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a potato chip before 12 noon before. But there’s something oddly satisfying about watching the sun rise higher in the sky while crunching on Kettle Cooked Sea Salt and Vinegar. Also, who am I?
I feel like Mike and I should have a DMC or something, but he’s humming along with Ishay Ribo and I’m trying not to hyperventilate as I read the third message Lara has sent me since 7 a.m.: Bayla, please confirm you will have everything ready for the marketing photo shoot. Maybe I won’t reply, just crunch, crunch, crunch the miles away.
My sisters are driving me insane. “I’m just going to do it,” I announce grandly.
He raises his eyebrows and takes a big bite from his muffin, courtesy of Shell gas station. “Drive to the warehouses? Aren’t we already doing that?”
I wave a hand airily, accidentally knocking over the stack of empty coffee cups we’ve accumulated. “No, no, silly, this is far grander than that. I am — wait for it — going to turn off notifications on the Sisters chat group.”
Mike pulls into a rest stop for a stretch, turns off the engine, and looks at me.
“I’ll believe it when I see it.”
So, I do it.
Appliances Plus is a huge imposing building that looks pretty deserted.
We jump out of the truck, brushing crumbs from our clothing. Mike straightens his yarmulke, and I suddenly wish I had my sheitel on. Will they take us seriously? Have we driven all this way for nothing?
“Mike,” I say.
He’s started to walk; he turns back and winks at me.
“Hey, Mrs. Leiber. We got this.” And because he’s Mike Leiber, charming, scattered, frustrating, and loyal, I believe him.
They think we’re insane and they refuse to help us load the truck. But once we show them our receipts, and okay, once I start ugly-crying in the manager’s office, they let us take the items. I’ve never wanted to hug a dishwasher before.
Mike keeps cackling as we load the truck, and I think the warehouse is one step away for arresting us on account of plain insanity.
Poor Mike has a banged knee and scraped hands from schlepping but he couldn’t care less. We send up a Mizmor l’Sodah, and hit the road again.
When we get to Tiles and Hardware three hours later, things aren’t as smooth. “Real sorry,” says a man in a blue polo shirt, “but the items requested are already loaded onto a truck.”
I grab onto an awful orange chair for support. “You’re joking.”
“Oh, ma’am, I assure you, I don’t find anything about this funny. Let me see who your driver was… Scott Czuchary. He loaded the truck four days ago.”
I stare wild-eyed at Mike, and notice he has a soda label stuck to his right pants leg. I wait to feel embarrassed or annoyed by this sloppiness but all I feel is overwhelming gratitude to him for being here with me in Newark, in this stupid warehouse.
“And where is this truck currently?”
Bless Mike and his logical questions.
My phone pings once and then twice, and I just know it’s Lara. Hashem, help!
Mr. Polo Shirt looks annoyed at the question.
“In our garage,” he mumbles.
Mike straightens his shoulders. “Well, those are our purchases. We would like them, please.”
“Once an item has been loaded into a delivery truck—”
“We paid for them. We drove seven hours to get them. We are not leaving without them,” Mike says, and his voice is so calm and modulated that I actually believe him.
So, apparently, does Mr. Manager.
Because an hour later, our little truck is filled to bursting with tiles, hardware, and appliances. We still need to get to Lakewood and get the cabinets, but by now I’m breathing much easier.
We did it. We actually did it.
“You did it,” I say to Mike wonderingly, eyes closed. We’ve pulled into a park and are resting with the windows open, sunshine baking our faces.
I might get freckles or wrinkles, but honestly, I don’t care.
I’m right here, in the moment, messy and sloppy as it might be, and I’ve never been happier.
My phone pings again; I can’t ignore Lara’s messages anymore. She’s not my sisters.
Bayla, Shira said you didn’t come in today? Where ARE you?
Bayla, the marketing team is coming in first thing day after tomorrow to take the pre-opening-day photo shoot. You have 24 hours to set up an entire kitchen showroom. I just called the project manager and she said your kitchen space is empty. DO YOU HAVE THIS UNDER CONTROL?
Oh, Lara, I have a truckful of loose tiles and uninstalled appliances that need to come together in a kitchen that will knock your socks off in the next 24 hours.
So, no, I do not have this under control. Thanks for asking, though.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 792)
Oops! We could not locate your form.