A post about Zev was too personal, but sharing pictures of her kids with the whole world was fine?
The hours when Deena’s kids were in school felt like borrowed time.
Shira Gluckman sat down on the windowsill in Deena’s studio and bit into a dulce de leche snickerdoodle. “In-sane,” she declared.
“You think?” Deena said. She felt so pressured to post her most incredible content that week, while the giveaway ran. She was getting those followers, now she needed to hold on to them.
“I need you here again tomorrow,” Deena said. “We’ve got to get this Shavuos series done.”
Shira groaned. “Noooo. Not tomorrow, I have a packed schedule. Real work, for a change.”
Real work, paying clients. Good for her, but this was bad news. “But you’ll squeeze me in, right?” Deena offered a supplicating smile. “Your portfolio, Shira. Think about the beautiful portfolio you’re building with my pictures, think of your branding. The time to invest is now.”
“And for that you’re giving me?”
“Experience, my dear. Plus snickerdoodles.” Deena rearranged a cookie on the set and sighed. “I wish I could offer you something to make it worth it. I’m just trying to keep my overhead as low as possible for now…”
“Actually,” Shira said, “there is something you could give me instead of a paycheck.”
“Basically, my husband is starting to carry a new line of vitamins. It’s the same brand he’s been selling until now, but for kids.”
Deena held up her hand. “You don’t have to go on. You want me to market the vitamins for him. Put it on my WhatsApp status, do a post or a story. Am I right or am I right or am I right?”
Shira grinned. “You’re righter than right.”
“Great! I’m really happy to do that for you.”
Shira reached for another snickerdoodle. “So I think you should talk to him directly, he has his ideas and stuff. And of course, we’ll want to include your kids.”
Zev’s mother’s face rose in Deena’s mind. Her disappointment, her frustration…
And the hypocrisy. She hadn’t said anything aloud, but her thoughts had been transparent. A post about Zev was too personal, but sharing pictures of her kids with the whole world was fine?
Deena’s stomach hardened.
Shira was looking at her, confused. “I mean, if you’re like okay with them actually trying the products,” she said. “I know you wouldn’t just make up stories or anything.”
Deena shook her head. The smell of sour pickles and coleslaw filled her breath, the bar mitzvah music echoing like a hollow tunnel, closing in on her.
Her cousin Nechama’s voice jarred in her ears. It’s adorable how I get to keep up with your kids’ lives through Instagram. Talk about popularity.
And Zev’s mother’s probing eyes. Confused, betrayed.
“N-no. No, Shira,” Deena whispered. “I’m so sorry. I just… can’t.”
It seemed that only clairvoyance would allow Yochi to determine whether mentalist Kenneth Brin was making it into the Greece roster or not. The guy was impossible to reach.
Finally, on Tuesday afternoon, while Pessie was out shopping for her Eretz Yisrael trip again and Yochi was home babysitting — see, the perks of a tour manager’s job? — Brin returned his call.
“Ken!” Yochi said heartily. “We almost gave up on you.”
Brin apologized, Yochi dismissed the apology, and as Yochi locked himself into his study for the call, they were already exchanging wisecracks, like they’d always been best buddies.
Still, being best buddies couldn’t make Brin available for the Wednesday night slot Yochi had allotted him on his spreadsheet.
“What about Saturday? Late on Saturday, you know, after our Sabbath?” Could he reschedule the fire show they’d booked for Motzaei Shabbos? Hopefully… “Saturday night, there’ll be great food then, an artisanal ice cream bar like you’ve never seen. You want to be there, Ken, trust me.”
Ken laughed. “You touched a soft spot.”
They went back and forth, a good 15 minutes, but at the end of the conversation — after heavy negotiations — mentalist Kenneth Brin was booked for Melaveh Malkah.
Yochi stretched and left the study, just as Hindy walked through the door, her face shining. “I won!” she shrieked.
Uh… Won what? A contest? A raffle?
“That’s—” Oh, right! Her states-and-capitals bee, how could he forget? That’s why they couldn’t go for her passport today, she didn’t want to miss the bee.
“Wow!” Yochi cried. “Wow, Hindy, that’s massive! I’m so proud of you!”
Ugh, how could he forget? They’d practiced together, this was a major event in his daughter’s life.
Then, maybe because of his comment to Brin, Yochi had an idea.
“Kids!” Yochi called. “Everyone, jump into the car. Hindy won the bee, we’re going to celebrate!”
The kids squealed and begged him to tell them where they were going. Yochi held a finger to his lips as they guessed the park, the toy store, Zambia.
Zambia, sure. But nobody looked disappointed when he pulled up in front of the ice cream shop.
Nobody — except an hour later — Pessie. Disappointed wasn’t the right word. She was hopping mad.
“Ice cream? Yochi, Hindy ate regular ice cream? In a cone?” Her eyes were popping. “Did you forget that she’s not allowed to have dairy, sugar, or white flour?”
Well, he hadn’t exactly forgotten. He just… hadn’t thought about it. The kid won her class bee, he gave her a treat. Would cheating on her diet just once make such a difference? Besides, weren’t they done with diets? Weren’t they trying something else now, flying to the Dead Sea to heal her skin?
Pessie walked out of the kitchen and into the playroom. “Kids!” he heard her yell. “What in the world is going on here? Who let you empty out the entire toy closet?!”
Yochi grimaced. The kids had been playing quietly, he’d been happy that nobody was whining or fighting.
What exactly was Pessie’s problem?
“Explain to me why kids don’t have school on Sunday,” Deena whined on the phone to Leah. “No, seriously. It’s twelve o’ clock. We already baked, did crafts, read books, and fought so much, I am going to lose it. Do your kids also fight?”
“My kids never fight. My kids never cry. My kids never spill. My kids always say please and thank you and throw out their plates when they finish eating.”
“I think we should take them to the park,” Leah said. “Less damage to the house, and it’s not like we’re going to get a thing done anyway.”
“Genius. Except I have no patience for the park on a Sunday. The entire world is there, we won’t even have a bench to sit on.”
Too late. Miri had overheard and started begging. “Yessss, let’s go to the park! Please? Pleeeeease?”
Okay. Okay, park. Mother takes kids to park, takes along cookies and apple slices and baby wipes. She was turning into a cliché.
A half-hour later, she met Leah near the playground.
“And we even have a bench to sit on,” Leah sang.
She was wearing a snood and not a trace of makeup. Sometimes Deena wondered how they were friends.
They’d hardly settled down on the bench to watch the kids when Miri shuffled over and threw herself into Deena’s lap. “I want to go home.”
“Huh? We just came, Miri. You begged me to take you to the park, we’re here now, what happened?”
“I hate the park! It’s noisy and yucky and everyone’s pushing at the slide, I want to go home!”
“Miri…” Deena inhaled. “Do you want a snack? A drink.”
Miri shook her head.
“Do you want to go on a swing? Sit and rest for a few minutes?”
“I want to go home!”
“Ho-hum,” Leah muttered.
Deena clutched her bag. “Miri…”
Miri flung her elbow, sending Deena’s bag flying.
It was no use. Miri would be Miri, and if she decided she wanted to go home, nothing would make her change her mind. She’d throw herself on the ground and kick and glower until Deena couldn’t handle it any longer and take her home.
“Leave Nechama with me,” Leah offered. “I’ll drop her off when we leave.”
Back home, Miri didn’t bother coming into the house. She fetched her scooter and went whizzing up and down the street, as though nothing had happened. Deena wanted to scream.
Later in the afternoon, when Leah dropped off Nechama, she shook her head at Deena. “I don’t mean to overstep my boundaries or anything, but Deena…” She frowned. “I think you need to do something about Miri.”
Deena bit her lip. She didn’t think there was anything wrong with her daughter. At least nothing that some young and eager therapist could fix.
But this wasn’t Morah Shiffy and this wasn’t Zev’s mother. This was coming from Leah, and there was something about her words that made Deena uncomfortable.
She didn’t know why she’d even kept the number, but she had it right there, saved in her contacts.
Sarah Benoloff, Sunrise Intervention.
It was only an evaluation, and she was only doing this to get everyone off her back.
It didn’t mean anything.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 752)
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