| Family First Serial |

For Granted: Chapter 16    

 “I mean, this is my organization! I’m the one who started it!” She grimaced. “Does that sound petty?”


Dini swiveled in Blew’s mirror, squinting at herself in the cashmere wrap sweater. Did the olive make her face look green? She turned to the right, then to the left.

The response in her head was in her mother’s voice. “Nice cut, but olive?? You know it always makes you look washed-out!”

Dini wrinkled her nose. Should she try the mustard? She slipped back into the dressing room. Shopping for her winter wardrobe would be so much more pleasant if she didn’t have to photograph and send every last item for her mother’s approval.

Of course, Ma would shudder at the word “approval.” “I just want to see what you’re wearing this season!” she always insisted. “Since I can’t see you in person.”

Dini sighed as she tried on a camel-colored pleated skirt. She supposed, in all fairness, that Ma deserved to see what she was paying for. Besides, her mother really did have fabulous taste. Growing up, she and Ma used to have a blast shopping together; it was one of those mother-daughter bonding activities that belonged uniquely to her. Eliana would stick her nose in the air and declare she’d rather spend her time on more important things than clothes shopping. Back then, Dini had believed her; looking back, she realized Eliana probably couldn’t handle the unflattering comparison between her looks and Dini’s. She’d assumed Eliana was perfectly happy to receive the bagfuls of clothing that they would bring home for her to try on in the privacy of her room. If someone had suggested to her that Eliana might be secretly jealous of Dini’s special relationship with their mother, she would have laughed in their face.

Now Dini wondered when sharing her shopping experience with Ma had turned into a burden.

“I used to love going shopping with Bubby,” she commented later that evening, as she tried on her new outfits for her daughters. Would they relate? Somehow, Dini doubted it.

“Cute,” Chaviva murmured as she fiddled with her camera settings. She’d recently started a photography course and Dini’s parents had bought her a professional-grade camera. Which meant that instead of snapping a few quick shots and being done with it, Dini was now forced to play model for a full-blown photo shoot.

“Turn this way, Mommy. No, not so much to the left. Tilt your head up, you need to catch the light.”

Still, she reasoned, she might as well enjoy herself. Dini paraded around the living room, while Tamar and Yaeli giggled and even Chaviva’s disapproving mouth twitched. Who cared that the dinner dishes were still out, not to mention that she had yet to figure out what to do about the whole Leora Schwartz mess? Dini flipped her sheitel over her shoulder and winked at the camera. Take that, sticky life problems.

“And modeling our newest ensemble… Dini Blumenfeld!”

Dini startled; when had Shuki come in? Blushing, she straightened up and mumbled, “Chaviva was just taking pictures to send my mother. You know how she likes to see my new clothing.”

Shuki’s eyes twinkled. “Of course. I’m just offended that you left me out of the show. Chaviva, don’t you think Bubby would want to see my clothes, too?” He tilted his hat forward at an angle and struck a pose. “And here to present the latest in yeshivish chic—!”

Chaviva giggled for real as she snapped away at her father; for some reason, preteen eye rolls were only reserved for Dini.

IF impressing Dini’s mother was the name of the game, then indulging Chaviva hadn’t been a complete waste of time; Ma’s immediate response to the WhatsApp photos was: Gorgeous pictures! Chaviva has a real artistic eye!

Dini beamed and read the compliment aloud to Chaviva. Hah! As far as she knew, none of her nieces or nephews had ever learned photography.

And then, a second later, another message: Calling you right now.

Dini raised her eyebrow at the urgency. Were her new clothes that bad?

Her phone rang. “Hi, Ma,” she said, shutting off the sink water and drying her hands. (No need to expose herself to comments about “poor Dini out in Israel who has no live-in to wash her dishes.”) “Do you want me to return the green sweater?”

“Huh? Return? What are you talking about?”

Dini relaxed, then scowled at herself for caring so much. At 34 years old, why should her mother’s opinion of her clothing still matter?

“I’m calling because I just ran into Adele Samson.”

Oh. Dini tensed once more. She sat down at the kitchen table. Honestly, she’d been expecting this phone call for the past week; she was surprised it had taken so long for the news to spread.


“Yes, she told me how flattered she was that you’d asked her to contribute to your organization. Something about an administrative salary?”

Dini’s stomach lurched. “Right. Baruch Hashem, we’ve been growing a lot, and we need a full-time administrator. Adele was kind enough to agree to sponsor the salary.”

And your daughter was stupid enough to promise the money to someone else.

“How lovely.” Ma’s voice was clipped. “And this administrator is… you?”

Dini sucked in her breath. “No!” Was that what her mother had thought? “Oh my gosh, no, Ma! Of course not! It’s for my friend who started the organization, Ayala Wexler — you remember Ayala.”

“Ah, of course. Ayala.” Her mother’s voice relaxed. “You don’t know what I felt when Adele told me about this. Had you actually gone to my friend to beg for money for your salary? What must Adele think of us, that we can’t take care of our children ourselves?”

Dini’s eyes pricked with tears. How could Ma have even suspected her of such a thing? “She knew this was for Ayala, I told her it’s for my friend.”

“I’m glad to hear.” There was a slight pause. “But, Dini, I hope you know that if you ever need to solicit money for any cause you’re involved in, you can always turn to us. It was a bit embarrassing to hear about this from Adele.”

Dini pressed her palm against the glass tabletop. Why hadn’t she anticipated her mother would feel this way? Had she been so stubborn in her insistence on proving herself that she’d inadvertently hurt her parents?

“I’m sorry, Ma. Obviously, I know I can always count on you.”

She sat up straight as inspiration suddenly struck. “Thing is,” she said slowly, “I was kinda saving you for the more significant fundraising needs. Like, we want to start a fund to provide financial help to people who need to stop working to care for a sick spouse. There’s a desperate need for this,” she added, picturing Leora’s face.

Her mother didn’t even hesitate; score one for peer pressure. “No problem. Message Tatty’s assistant with the amount you need to get the fund started.”

Alone in her kitchen, Dini did a small pirouette. Yeeesss!

“Thanks, Ma!” She grinned.

“What’s your organization called again?”

“Chesed Tzirel.” And then she remembered. “We, uh, don’t have official tax-exempt status, yet. We’re still working on getting that.”

“Talk to Tatty about the legalities. I don’t know anything about that.”

Which was exactly what Dini would have expected her mother to respond.

Then, her mother added, “Chesed Tzirel? You can’t come up with a more attractive name?”

Dini stiffened. Nice cut, but olive?? Yet Ma’s taste really was impeccable.

“I know, Ayala named it after her grandmother or something. But I agree.” And then came inspiration number two of the evening. “That’s actually another major funding need we have. Now that we’re starting to really grow, we need to start advertising. You know, branding, marketing materials, stuff like that. We have a logo already,” she added proudly.

Ma was unimpressed. “Any two-bit organization can have a logo, all you need is a Canva account. A good logo is something else.”

Dini gritted her teeth. “I know that. I did my research. I used a highly recommended designer.”


“Someone local. You wouldn’t know her.”

“Someone local?” There was a thread of delicate disbelief in her voice. “Send it to me and I’ll take a look. Tatty uses one of the top graphic artists in the country. I’m sure she’d make the time to work on your project if he asked her.”

Dini wanted to smack herself. How had she fallen into this trap? Had she not predicted this exact conversation, down to the last word? Was this not why she’d made her careful decision not to include her family in the logo consultation?

“Thanks, Ma, but right now I want to step back and focus on the fuller picture, not just the logo.”

“Yes, that’s a good point,” her mother conceded. “For example, you might change the name.”

Dini swallowed. It was time to end this call while she was ahead.

“So, it sounds like you’d be interested in financing our branding?”

“It would be my pleasure. What, I should let Adele Samson be in charge of my daughter’s marketing?”

Her mother laughed to indicate she wasn’t really jealous, and Dini laughed back, to indicate that all was good between them now. And also, because she’d gained so much more than she could have hoped from this conversation.

What her mother meant by the expression “be in charge of my daughter’s marketing”… did that really matter?

Ayala smiled as Naftali approached with two cups of tea. She immediately put down her broom. So what if the floor was still covered with the day’s debris? She was more than ready to call it a night. Shoving a box of crayons and several half-finished drawings to one side of the kitchen table, she sat down across from her husband.

“So how does it feel to go from speech therapist to CEO?” he asked teasingly.

Ayala made a face. “Hah, hah, CEO. Anyway, I’m still a speech therapist for the next two weeks.”

“That gives us two weeks to buy you an executive suite and a plaque.”

Ayala laughed. Not that she had any illusions of kavod from her new official position, but Naftali’s pride was sweet.

Wrapping her hands around her hot teacup, she said, “Seriously, though, I have been thinking about how I should use this opportunity.”

Naftali took a sip of tea, waiting for her to continue.

“I mean, until now, Chesed Tzirel has been a little… scattered. We’ve kind of just been responding to needs as they came up, you know? I feel like I need to consolidate things.”

He nodded slowly. “You’re saying you want to create a more official process? A clearer list of services that you provide?”

“Yes! And also—” She lifted a stray crayon and twirled it between her fingers. How should she articulate this?

“I got a weird phone call last night from one of the women we’re helping. She was talking about qualifying for our financial grant to help families who are out of work due to illness.”

Naftali blinked. “I didn’t know you offered that.”

“Neither did I! Apparently, Dini’s gone on this major fundraising spree — no, what am I talking about? She probably just asked Daddy to give her a hundred thousand dollars and he said, ‘Sure, sweetie.’” Ayala frowned. “And now she’s starting new funds and handing out grants without even consulting me!”

“Have you spoken to her about it?”

Ayala lifted a shoulder. “It’s a bit of a sensitive topic to bring up. Because she was hurt that I took so long to accept my salary.”

Naftali raised an eyebrow. “Maybe she thought you didn’t want it, so she decided to create a fund with it instead.”

Ayala laughed. “Very funny.” Her smile faded. “But it’s a problem that she thinks she can launch programs on her own. I mean, this is my organization! I’m the one who started it!” She grimaced. “Does that sound petty?”

“Not at all,” Naftali said. “Not to mention that it’s terrible business practice. You need to make sure you have firm control over everything going on in the organization. After all, the buck stops with you, Madame CEO.” His eyes twinkled.

“You’re right,” she said. “It’s time Dini and I had an open, honest meeting.”


To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 868)

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