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Follow Me: Chapter 26 

That afternoon, when she had to part from Zissi, Malkie, and Motti, her pep-talk blew up in her face



Those vacuum storage bags were an excellent, excellent idea. Her sister Devoiry had recommended them, and Pessie was able to pack for this trip so much more efficiently and fit so much more in her suitcases. An excellent idea, except…

Except that her luggage was overweight.

“But—” Pessie stammered, blinking at the number on the scale at the check-in counter.

The cavernous airport hall was cold, voices swirling around her. People stood behind her in line, a little boy swung from a stanchion, pulling the retractable belt, until his mother grabbed him off and rebuked him.

Pessie stared down at the suitcases. They weren’t bulging, thanks to Devoiry’s bags, but also thanks to those bags, Pessie had compressed too much weight into each of the two suitcases. What was she supposed to do now?

How could I have missed this? How did I forget to weigh my luggage at home?

Her legs felt weak. This couldn’t be. She did not have the emotional energy to deal with overweight luggage now.

Calm down, these things happen every day. Nobody’s hurt or in danger. It’s just a little hiccup, everything will be all right, you’ll get through this.

Easy for her brain to talk.

Her stomach — empty, come to think of it; she’d been too nervous to eat — knotted. She’d been pep-talking herself for the past five days, from the day Yochi had flown off to Zambia to prepare for his guests’ arrival.

She didn’t like this reality, but if it was destined to happen, she would handle it gracefully and maturely. She would take each day as it came, she would focus on the moment and remain calm and upbeat. She would march forward, she would.

But that afternoon, when she had to part from Zissi, Malkie, and Motti, her pep-talk blew up in her face.

The kids were okay, actually. Motti obviously didn’t grasp that she was leaving him for two weeks, and Zissi and Malkie felt totally at home with her parents. Pessie was the one who had turned into a basket case. She was going to miss her kids like crazy. What had she been thinking?

She hugged each child fiercely, promised to buy amazing gifts if they behaved, and before she could blink, it was time to leave.

And then, when her taxi had arrived and she’d stepped out of her parents’ house with her mother and her girls waving and blowing kisses after her, Motti had burst into tears. Pessie had watched from the car window helplessly, blinking back her own tears as her mother tried soothing him.

“So, Ma’am, what are you going to do?” the check-in agent asked.

Pessie gripped the handle of her carry-on. “Can I maybe… can I go buy a suitcase from one of the duty-free shops?”

“No, I’m sorry,” she replied. “You can’t pass before your baggage is checked.”

Maybe, if she put a few things into her carry-on, and some into Hindy’s…?

“Let me try this.” She heaved one suitcase down on the ground — it was heavy, how hadn’t she realized? — and zipped it open.

She tried. She stuffed a bottle of sunscreen between the sandwiches she’d packed, only to be reminded that hey, liquid, over three ounces. No go.

This wasn’t working. She’d packed so many things into those carry-ons, you couldn’t squeeze a needle in. “Do you really need so many things for a two-week trip to Eretz Yisrael?” Yochi had asked her incredulously.

The agent was growing impatient. “There’s a line behind you, ma’am. You need to decide what you’re doing.”


What could she do? She didn’t have another suitcase to transfer things to. And she wasn’t leaving her clothing behind in the airport.

She had to ask someone. Not Yochi. It was 9:15 p.m. in New York, which meant it was 3:15 a.m. in Zambia, and Yochi was slumbering in the company of elephants.

Her parents?

She didn’t want to ask her parents. Not after declining her father’s offer to drive them to the airport. Her parents’ pity was getting to her. Enough that three of her children were staying with them for two weeks. Enough that she’d had to stay with them for Shabbos, with Yochi parked in Zambia together with his minyan of tour staff busybodies.

This was all Yochi’s fault. He was the big travel expert; couldn’t he have warned her? Well, had they been traveling together, this whole packing stress wouldn’t have fallen entirely on her. And if he’d been there now, he would’ve known what to do. Pessie inhaled deeply, anger pulsing in her chest.

Hindy tugged at her sleeve. “What’s the problem, Mommy? Do we have to leave our suitcases here?” Her face was taut with fear.

“No,” Pessie said quickly. “No, Hindy, don’t worry. We’re simply going to—”

They were simply going to pay.

Phew. Why hadn’t she thought of that? Sometimes money was the answer to everything.

“How much would I need to pay to get these through?” she asked.

“Two hundred dollars per bag.”

“Whoa.” For all her effort to avoid taking a third suitcase, which would’ve cost her $100…

She lifted the suitcase back upright. “I guess I’ll just go ahead then.”

A sour taste filled her mouth as she handed over her credit card. It wasn’t just a waste of money. It was so embarrassing. She couldn’t believe she’d made such a dumb mistake.

And it never would’ve happened had Yochi been traveling together with her.

Her feet pounded harshly as they strode through the terminal. She’d never been as enraged about this stupid, stupid tour job as she was right then. Pet elephants.

It was only $400, but as they settled down for the flight, the incident wouldn’t let Pessie rest.

Hindy bounced around excitedly, drinking in the magical airplane experience. After a while, she got tired and dozed off. Pessie didn’t sleep a wink.

By the time they landed, she was dizzy and disoriented and could hardly keep up with Hindy’s stream of chatter.

They stood around the baggage carousel, waiting for their luggage. “I see my suitcase!” Hindy squealed.

Pessie hurried over and grasped at the suitcase. A kind woman with a puppy helped her haul it to the ground.

Then they continued to wait for their second piece of luggage.

They waited. And waited. And waited and waited and waited until all other passengers were gone and not a single suitcase remained on the carousel.

When Pessie approached a terminal agent for help, he wasn’t too reassuring. “These things happen,” the terminal agent explained. “The airline will make every effort to find it. And if it doesn’t turn up, insurance will cover for your losses. I know it’s frustrating, I’m very sorry.”

Sorry? Sorry wasn’t bringing her clothing back. What was she supposed to do? She was going straight to the Dead Sea, not to Yerushalayim or Bnei Brak where she could buy a couple of things to wear and charge it to the airline. How would she manage without even a change of clothing? And Shabbos. Okay, she would not think about Shabbos.

It was all Pessie could do to control herself from crying. The past 24 hours replayed in her brain on fast-mode, straining every last one of her strained nerves. March forward, march forward.

The apologetic frown on the agent’s face seemed to mock her altruistic pep-talks. She didn’t trust herself to say anything, she couldn’t even bring herself to call Yochi or her mother to report this new development. Instead, she went outside, into the shock of Israeli heat, and flagged a monit.

Two hours later, they entered the hotel; Pessie, Hindy, their carry-ons and the lone suitcase. Hindy was euphoric, her mouth hanging open as she took in the beautiful hotel lobby, but Pessie was too weak to care. All she could think of was collapsing into bed and sleeping until this entire trip was over.

Finally, they reached their hotel room. Pessie inserted her key card and pushed the door open.

The room was nice. Comfortable. The linens looked appealing and the AC blasted.

And on the dresser, next to the coffee machine, sat a huge bouquet of fresh flowers.

“Flowers?” Hindy asked. “Does the hotel buy flowers for all guests?”

“N-no,” Pessie said slowly, reaching for the card that was stapled to a leaf.

Dearest Pessie,

Welcome! I hope you have an easy time settling in. Let’s pretend we’re doing this together and we’re not staying in hotels a million miles apart…

Enjoy your stay!

Thinking of you,


to be continued…

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 757)

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