| Follow Me |

Follow Me: Chapter 43 

Yochi noticed Pessie’s eyes widen. He could just read her thoughts. We just landed, what is up with this guy? Couldn’t he give them time to rest up?


In half a mile, your destination will be at your left.

Unconsciously, Yochi’s grip on his steering wheel tightened. Even as he peeked into the rearview mirror and called to the kids, “You can start counting down from a hundred now, but slowly!” one eye was on Pessie, hoping for a reaction.

Whatever she’d said all along, no matter how much she’d protested, this was Corvara. The Dolomite Alps. Yochi drank in the view, the majestic mountain terrain, the pristine air. It was like driving through fairyland, the sun streaking the roads with welcoming rays. Pessie couldn’t really still prefer to be home in their polluted city, putting up 16-quart pots of chicken soup.

But her face was inscrutable.

Ten minutes later, their luggage was neatly arranged on the hotel’s baggage cart and Yochi’s rented minivan parked in the parking lot.

The front doors of Cielo Blu Resort glided open with a muted grace.

“Niiiice…” Pessie whistled.

Yochi searched her face as she drank in her surroundings.

“It’s so beautiful here,” she said genuinely. “Really wow.”

An indulgent grin rose on his face. “This is only the beginning,” he said smugly. “Nu, kids, how do you like it?”

The kids didn’t seem to hear him. Malkie looked completely lost. Hindy and Zissi wore dazed expressions, eyes traveling between the sheet of water cascading down the length of the rear wall to the modern display of sofas and armchairs around the lobby.

Yochi took in the enormous lobby. It was beautiful — but also strangely frightening, his family alone in this deserted place. In another two days, the place would fill up with his guests. He pictured a crowd bustling through the room and gave a slight shiver.

“Let’s go get everyone settled, yeah?” he said.

He went ahead to the front desk to introduce himself and check in. He was waiting for the elevator when a hand came down on his shoulder.

“Shalom aleichem, Yochonon!”

Binick shook Yochi’s hand, then nodded in Pessie’s direction. “Welcome, welcome, bruchim habaim!”

“Thank you,” Pessie replied politely.

“Nu, Yochonon, are we getting to work?”

His tone was sharp, and Yochi noticed Pessie’s eyes widen. He could just read her thoughts. We just landed, what is up with this guy? Couldn’t he give them time to rest up?

Pessie wouldn’t get it, but Yochi wasn’t fazed. Binick was a good guy, but his nerves were on fire. He could practically touch his boss’s tension.

And he didn’t blame him. He was equally anxious, only trying not to show it for Pessie’s sake.

There was so much to do and so little time in which to do it. They had to get all their supplies and equipment unloaded. They had to oversee the succah tent setup — structure, décor, lighting, everything. They had to meet with the hotel management and go over every last detail of pool schedules, Shabbos and Yom Tov regulations, the entertainment program. They had to meet with their own staff, several times, to make sure everyone knew what had to get done when and how.

But first and most urgently, they belonged in the kitchen. The “team” — T. and Berkowitz and Lizman — would be arriving that evening, the place had to be kashered and ready so that they could get to work first thing in the morning. T. would be around for a grand total of 48 hours. Every minute was a commodity.

Yochi glanced at Binick. “Yes,” he said. “Where’s the kitchen? Did the mashgiach start? I’ll go get everyone settled and come meet you there.”

When they got to their suite, the kids delightedly explored the rooms while Yochi lugged in all the suitcases. In his head, a clock ticked, counting down the minutes until the guests’ arrival. His stomach hurt from the pressure.

He itched to start checking tasks off the list. But Pessie was there with the kids, he couldn’t leave just yet.

Forcing calm into his voice, he rubbed his palms together. “ ’Kay, where do we start?” he asked Pessie. “Kids clothing in this dresser?”

But Pessie shook her head, a concerned expression on her face. “Leave it,” she said. “We’ll unpack later. Let’s go to the kitchen. If Hindy keeps an eye on the kids, maybe I can help with the kashering?”

Yochi’s fingers paused on the zipper of the suitcase. “That would be great,” he said slowly. “Thank you, Pessie.” As they made their way back to the elevator, kids skipping along at their side, the pressure was still there. But somehow, the clock’s ticking had faded and his stomach felt a lot lighter.


Hey, guys! Look up and wave!

Writing from the skies somewhere over the Atlantic. (Which honestly freaks me out. I prefer my feet on the ground, thank you.) Italy, here we come! Can’t wait to seize the kitchen together with the two-and-only @eliT and @gbercatering!

I’m so pumped about the teamwork — too many cooks ain’t spoiling nothin. Great food coming up for all you lucky tour guests! Look out for my stories to see our creations. And of course, warm regards from my two lil’ sleeping beauties. Didn’t think they’d fall asleep, but looks like airplanes are boring-er than they imagined.

@touringtogether @succosinitaly @thedolomitestour @eliT @gbercatering @jewishholidays @traveledit @koshercatering

She glanced at her photo again — a puff of white, shot from her airplane window — reviewed and tweaked the text a bit, and posted it.

She looked down at her kids. Miri lay rolled over on her side, huddled in an airline blanket. Her eyes were firmly shut, a charming intensity on her sharp features. Nechama’s head had lolled to Miri’s side, and she clutched her fuzzy blankie as her wispy curls rippled over her sister’s back. Dim coloring, a slight, natural fuzziness. She picked up her phone and snapped a picture. Not for a post, sweetheart, she thought triumphantly.

She reread the post. Two-and-only — the tour people would like that. They’d tacked on and Gedalya Berkowitz on the last round of ads, after the Eli T. Catering logo. From here, it was only prayers that would bring proper food to the table.

I’m so pumped about the teamwork.

Deena stuck her phone into her bag. There were another — oh, goodness — four hours until they landed in Italy. If only she could drift off for a while, like her children.

She unbuckled her seatbelt and stood up to stretch. It was quiet all around, most passengers asleep, some talking in hushed voices. She was distinctly aware of the faint white noise of the engine as she maneuvered her way up the aisle to the rear of the aircraft. The door to the galley was open, and she stood back for a moment, watching the flight attendants putter around, cleaning away the dinner meal.

She circled over to the other side, aimlessly padding down the aisle. The floor trembled slightly beneath her feet, and she paused, reaching for the back of a seat to steady herself. A couple sitting in the seats on her left turned and glanced at her, then turned back, resuming what appeared to be an earnest conversation.

She continued walking. Her head felt a little heavy — probably the altitude. A man stood up to get something from the overhead compartment. Deena waited to pass.

Her eyes traveled over the row of windows. Small, oblong patches, shuttered, enclosing the plane in a choking thickness. The air was dry, the artificial heat overwhelming her senses.

And standing there, disconnected from the world, she suddenly felt so, so small. A speck in the sky, a disjointed nobody, suspended in time and space.

Thousands of miles below, a forceful being existed, bearing her identity: Nuts & Basil, a life thumping with passion and energy. Scattered over several continents, random people tapped and read and swiped. They liked and commented, tagged and shared. Thousands and thousands of people, hooked on her dynamic existence.

But they weren’t people. She didn’t know them; they didn’t know her. At all. No matter how much she’d shared over the years, she’d shared nothing. Pictures of two angelic-looking girls licking frosting. Perfectly placed dribbles on the side of her mixing bowl.


They were a bunch of strangers. Soulless screen names.

And the person they followed — the very famous Nuts & Basil — was just…

Just another soulless screen name.

Because even the people who did know her — her family, Zev’s family, even Leah — what did they really know? What did they see, other than the great warrior she appeared to be?

Dizziness swept over her again. She stumbled through the aisles, back to her seat. She sank down, let her head fall forward, cradling it in her hands.

The altitude. Probably.


The plane touched down with a mild thud. Deena looked at Miri and Nechama, winked and squeaked, “Benvenuta!”

Nechama giggled. Miri gave a hesitant smile.

They collected their carry-ons, joined the line of passengers inching toward the exit.

A frisson of excitement fluttered in Deena’s stomach. This was it. The show was on.

They went through customs and baggage claim, found the car rental counter. And then they were out in the Italian air.

Driving along long, curvy roads, she observed the changing terrain, the land rising with the passing miles. The scene was unlike anything she’d ever witnessed; spectacular autumn-gold mountains, pointed peaks soaring through pink cotton clouds. The sky was startlingly blue, blanketing the atmosphere in an irresistible peacefulness.

Her foot felt light on the pedal. The dizziness of the plane ride had vanished. She was on terra firma, the ridiculous, brooding introspection a silly effect of flying.

This wasn’t soullessness. She wasn’t some extraterrestrial being. She was Deena Lizman, Nuts & Basil was her brand. She existed in the here and now: focused, grounded, alive. She bore her own identity, a life thumping with passion and energy, and she was ready to dive right into the exciting two weeks ahead.

They entered the Corvara region. While waiting at a red light, she pulled out her phone and checked her post.

The likes had poured in.

Italy, here we come.

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 774)

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