| First of All |

First of All: Chapter 8

"Do you think I’m the cleaning lady? We’re married six months, I should be coming home to roses and chocolates, not crumbs and dishes"


Traveling to Teaneck for a second cousin’s bas mitzvah has never been high on Toby Berger’s to-do list. But now, the thought of the drive together with Aryeh seems like a treat. They’ll say hi to all the cousins, admire the open bar and photo booth and deejay, and then hightail out of there to a really nice restaurant. Maybe Estihana? Or Mocha Bleu, if Aryeh will be willing to go dairy…

Now the real question is, what should she wear.

Okay, maybe she should let Aryeh know what their Sunday plans are before she heads to her closet.

“I’m so sorry, I can’t,” he says when she calls, his voice low.

She presses the volume higher on her phone. “What? You can’t? Why not?”

“Meeting. With the board. Yes, on a Sunday. I’m so sorry, Tobes. Can you go without me? Maybe take Bayla or Mims?”

She looks out the window, at the Thursday afternoon traffic moving along in a steady, predictable pattern.

“Yeah, maybe,” she says. Maybe.


The Neshei did a really nice job. The spread looks amazing, and I’m looking forward to hearing Rebbetzin Frank share Chizuk for the Kollel Wife. I’ve waited so long to be on this scene, out, married, on a Motzaei Shabbos.

I wave at my friends, girls who got married five or six years before me. They look tired; I’m sure they had to disentangle themselves from kids and dishes to be here. And me? I spent a luxurious hour getting ready, schmoozing with Mike while I fixed my makeup. He even drove me here, promising he’ll be totally bored until it’s time to pick me up again. Which is totally not true; give the man a sefer and he’ll forget that I exist.

I load my plate with sushi and salad and go find a seat. The whole event is running late, and Rebbetzin Frank is only halfway done when my phone buzzes.

Outside, whenever you’re ready, Mrs. Leiber.

It’s a really nice shiur and I’m enjoying. But Mike’s outside. I slip out the back, trying to look like there’s an emergency pulling me away, and wave brightly at Mike.

Sometimes, it feels like we’re still dating.

Okay, we are definitely done dating. I survey the chaos that is Mike’s Lunchtime Adventures. And I’m annoyed.

I came home from work after a long day, and am greeted by his plate on the table, remnants of — I lean forward gingerly — mustard smeared across it. Crumbs litter the floor, there are dishes in the sink, and an empty coffee mug left on the hallway table depicts a long lunch with a hasty retreat to seder. I should’ve been an FBI agent.

But seriously, is this normal? We don’t have cleaning help and we don’t live with our parents. Doesn’t he realize that if he leaves a mess, I’m going to be the one to clean it?

I sit down at the table without clearing up anything. I’m tired. My head hurts. And mostly, my confidence is shaken. Shira took my place at the office planning meeting for Kleins and Sons while I was in Florida, and she’s been strangely happy since I got back. Maybe Lara told her she’s a way better assistant than I am? Maybe I’m not a good assistant at all…

Ugh, now I feel nauseous. That’s when I decide to make beef with broccoli for dinner. I need to throw myself into something, something that will make me feel good about myself.

Though I might possibly fail miserably and want to go hide under my bed for the next ten years. It’s a toss-up.

It came out good. Like really, really good. I put out the taupe gingham tablecloth and pretty wooden bowls I bought in Ikea during sheva brachos, and light a few candles. Then I go freshen up before Mike comes home.

I’m just dabbing on some mascara when Mike comes in. I won’t look at the clock, I won’t look at the— he’s 20 minutes late.

“Bay?” He pokes his head into the room, a huge smile spreading across his face. “What’s all that on the dining room table? Is it an anniversary? Birthday? Were you promoted again?”

Way to pour salt on the wound, Mike.

“No,” I say shortly. “I just thought we should have a nice dinner together and then maybe play Scrabble. I’ll make popcorn.”


I turn away from the mirror. “Why do you sound confused?”

Mike shrugs sheepishly. “Because I am. You’re saying really nice things but you sound… annoyed.”

That does it. “Well, I am annoyed, Michoel,” I say, stalking to the dining room.

He follows behind, shrugging out of his jacket as he walks. “Oh, gosh, why?”

I spin around, acknowledging I am a cliché even as my eyes flash and my fists creep to my hips.

“Because I walk in after a long day at work to find a huge mess in the kitchen. Do you think I’m the cleaning lady? Do you think that’s nice? We’re married six months, I should be coming home to roses and chocolates, not crumbs and dishes.”

I’m spiraling but I can’t stop. Mike is blinking at me like he’s never seen me before.

“Let’s eat,” I say shortly.


It’s ridiculous, I’ll be the first to admit it. I spent two hours cooking and then worked myself up into such a frenzy that I can’t even enjoy it.

I don’t think Mike has ever been so happy in his life to go to Maariv. I wave stiffly and then enter the kitchen, lean against the counter, and breathe. Whipping out my phone, I text Chan. My eldest sister who lives in Baltimore is the wisest person I know, and also the busiest.

Chan, I’m losing it. Mike is a great guy, but this whole ADD, l’maaleh min hazman thing is killing me. I got mad at him for leaving a mess, but honestly, I’m not sure he even realized he left it in the first place.

There’s no way she’s going to answer. She’s a nurse practitioner in an urgent care center. Her day off is the day she gives birth to one of her cuties. And Shabbos.

My phone pings.

Well, hello, long lost baby sis. 

I miss you!

And then:

Marriage is HARD. Like truly. Trust me, after 20 years, I still need to put constant thought into it. But that Mike is a winner. Yes, ADD and being spaced out can be challenging, but it also brings so many maalos to the table. I remember you raving about how chilled he is.

I think this is the longest texting session we’ve ever had.

And how much you admired his laid-backness. And how you hoped it would balance you out. All the things that you just said “kill you.”

Don’t forget that, Bay. You literally got married five minutes ago 😛

And when are we getting the Leibers for Shabbos?? My kids are plotzing already.

Sisters are officially the best. I take a deep breath, text her back that we’re going to be crashing at her for Shabbos really soon, and square my shoulders to go apologize to the sweet, laid-back, very confused man in the dining room who’s just come back from Maariv.

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 786)

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