He’d meant to tell Pessie where he was going, it wasn’t a secret, but somehow, after her sudden Pesach worries and ground shaking philosophical questions, it was probably wiser not to share.
“What happens Pesach?”
Yochi stopped short. He looked at Pessie and noted the furrow between her brows. “Pesach?”
Pessie held up the two ends of the dinette Shabbos tablecloth. “Yes,” she said. “Like, if you plan on spending Pesach in Thailand or wherever, how does that work? Putting aside how strange it’s going to be — not exactly a seder with our parents — but like, what about our minhagim? We don’t even use baking powder in our cakes, are we suddenly going to start mishing? Or will I have to cook and schlep all the food along? What’s the plan?”
“Um,” Yochi said. He pulled the plug out of the percolator and lifted the lid. Steam rose. “Honestly, Pessie, Pesach is like ten months away. I didn’t think about it.”
“Maybe we should’ve thought about it before you left the firm. Along with many other hashkafic questions that we by the way never discussed. Like, are you okay with our kids being exposed to all those crazy luxuries? To all the entertainment that their schools are so against?”
Yochi grimaced, then tilted the percolator over and poured the water into the sink.
Maybe her questions were valid. They were, actually; she always raised valid questions. But he didn’t have answers, so the conversation was moot.
Pessie went to the dining room to put away the tablecloth. Yochi followed her. He took his beketshe from the chair, swept his shtreimel off the couch, and twirled it in his hand.
“Where are you going?” Pessie asked.
He hesitated. He’d meant to tell Pessie where he was going, it wasn’t a secret, but somehow, after her sudden Pesach worries and ground shaking philosophical questions, it was probably wiser not to share.
“I’m going to learn,” he said.
She looked surprised. He usually sat down with her for Melaveh Malkah on Motzaei Shabbos when the house was back in order. But she didn’t ask questions, so he quickly slipped out of the house.
The night was hot and sticky. By the time Yochi reached Ateres Rochel, his forehead was wet and boasted a red rim where his shtreimel sat.
Binick was waiting for him in the lobby. “Gut vuch, Yochonon!”
“Gut vuch! How are you? Are you waiting long?”
“Nah, I just got here, but I hear singing. Let’s go inside, yeah?”
They stepped into the hall and quietly took seats in a corner. They weren’t being mesayeim this masechta, they didn’t even know the people in this crowd. They’d come to feel out the choir that was singing at this siyum. Moe Mossberg’s choir. New name, supposedly big talent.
The talent, that’s what they were assessing now. And if Mossberg impressed, they would invite him to join them in Italy for Succos.
“Nice,” Binick murmured as the choir winded down the Hadran. “What do you think?”
“Great singing,” Yochi agreed. “But more than that, I like this fellow. He has passion, you can so tell.”
They stayed for one more song — “Mah Ashiv” — and when a middle-aged man, probably the person who gave the shiur, got up to speak, they left.
“I guess it’s a yes?” Yochi asked.
Binick nodded. They strolled down the street together.
“If Mossberg comes, he comes alone,” Binick said. “You know he’s divorced, right?”
“No, I had no idea.”
“Yeah. He has a kid, a three-year-old boy, I think.”
“A shidduch with Lizman, the food show lady, huh?”
Binick gave a small shrug. “Hey, you never know.”
They parted at the corner of the block. Binick hurried off, probably to have Melaveh Malkah with his family, but Yochi continued walking, in no rush.A few blocks further, he stepped into shul, pulled out a Gemara and sat down to learn. Maybe he was a disappointment to his wife, but a liar, at least, he wouldn’t be.
What was her password again? Right, gimmeabreak1.
Deena hadn’t logged on to Ruthie’s single-mom forum since that first time after the B’yachad barbecue, but when Sarah Benoloff emailed her Miri’s evaluation report, she left the message unread and instead found herself searching for the link to the forum – Alone Together – and signing in.
She skimmed through the latest discussions.
Most Awkward Moment, OMG
Good potato kugel recipe, anyone?
Dreading the summer, weekends are impossibly long
She clicked on that one.
Well, guys, it’s that time of year again. I’m feeling so left out of the whole summer excitement around me. Any ideas how to escape the loneliness during the months ahead? Taking a poll: Do you appreciate being invited by family/friends for weekends in the mountains or do you prefer to stay home?
Deena couldn’t resist. She hit reply and typed.
I absolutely love being invited for weekends. It feels so good to be remembered. It makes me feel warm and loved. So what if you need to hang your dress bag on the shower rod in the one bathroom in the bungalow and share a bunk bed with all your kids?
Looked like the group was quite active, because she got a bunch of LOLs and ROTFL emojis within seconds.
Deena smirked. This was fun. She clicked on other random posts, tossed in her snarky comments, until someone DMed her: You’re a riot. Do I know you?
Deena logged out quickly, regretting that she hadn’t turned her status to invisible before starting her shtick. Ugh, a good hour wasted. Ridiculous.
Okay, the report. May as well. She downloaded the file and started reading.
Miriam (Miri) Lizman is 5 years, 11 months… Her cognitive skills appear to fall within normal age limits. She is able to…
She skimmed through the technical details, until she reached the Social Development section.
Miri’s social/emotional skills appear to be significantly compromised. She does not initiate and avoids participating in conversation. Miri appears to harbor excessive fears and insecurities, possibly linked to a traumatic history, the death of her father. She presents as creative/imaginative during play. However, she remains guarded and avoidant throughout all activity. She exhibits withdrawal, anxiety, and a general emotional disturbance that affects her self-regulation skills.
Deena minimized the PDF and rolled her chair back. She stood up, stomped over to the window and pushed it open.
She felt nauseous. A dry, formulaic report, stupid words on a paper. Ugh. This was her daughter. This was Miri. She admitted that Miri was suffering, that she was going through a stage. She wanted to help her. She wasn’t resisting intervention for the sake of resistance.
She was resisting because they were wrong. All of them. Morah Shiffy. Zev’s mother. Sarah Benoloff, ABCDEFG.
They weren’t wrong about her behavior. Miri was miserable, Deena knew her behavior was off.
But none of them had gotten through to her daughter. It was easy to blame it all on trauma. But it wasn’t the answer. She was certain it wasn’t.
The question was — what was it? And who could help her figure it out?
Deena returned to her desk. Absently, she walked her mouse over her task bar. Her minimized applications took turns popping up. Acrobat, the report. Chrome.
She paused, staring at the little square, still open to the Alone Together forum.
She couldn’t do it. Not after establishing herself an hour earlier as the snide and jaded impostor.
But what was a screen name anyway? Nobody knew who NotHappening was. They wouldn’t know who — let’s say, MeMyselfAndI — was, either.
It wasn’t hard to set up an account. She contacted the admin with some generic introduction, filled out the brief questionnaire (How did you hear about Alone Together? Easy, Baila Weisz), and within a few minutes, her new account was active.
It felt weird, visiting the same site under a new identity. Like a visitor sneaking in from the back door. What was she doing there anyway?
She scrolled through the running threads. Then she scrolled back, to older discussions, going back one page and then another. Finally, she found it, that thread title that hadn’t left her mind since the first time she’d logged in.
He’s gone for five years… I miss him.
It was a long, harrowing post, pain screaming from the sentences. Deena literally squirmed at the woman’s candidness.
She didn’t reply. Instead, she clicked to start a new thread. This is crazy. What am I doing?
But Sarah’s words — her callous assessment — made her fingers itch. She paused at the subject line, experimenting:
Is therapy the answer to everything?
How much can you blame on a father’s death?
Is my child’s behavior linked to grief?
She — no, conceal identity, he — He never knew his father, could he be feeling a void?
At the end, she simply wrote, Help me figure this out.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 754)
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