| Family Tempo |


Would my mother ever be proud of my daughter — or me?


he shadchan, Mrs. Zieg, sidled over to where I was sitting. “I always tell my husband it’s easiest to make a shidduch when the kallah’s mother is at this stage.” At “this,” she gestured toward my chair. “Her nerves are so frazzled and she’s so physically and emotionally exhausted, she just says yes!”


But seriously, what was I thinking when I said yes? I’d just told Pinny, “I can’t deal with the shadchan’s phone calls on top of everything. If Ezriel Steinbuch checks out, just let them meet.”

So there was no one to blame but myself for sitting on a chair at my oldest daughter’s vort. Doing a l’chayim and vort combo wasn’t my preferred way of celebrating either. But when every day literally counts, you do things you never imagined possible.

“So you’re trying to say you fooled me into saying yes?” I asked Mrs. Zieg.

“Nah!” She waved her hand. “This shidduch would’ve happened anyway. I’m telling you, like a puzzle, like a custom-made pair of gloves.”

Was there even such a thing?

“Look at them. Gems,” Mrs. Zieg continued. “Why wait? Boys like these are one in a million. Or in this case, one in a billion.”

I thought so, too. The two gems were glowing next to the flowers as the cameras went flashing. Bless my next daughter, Yitty, for remembering to bring the camera and for taking pictures. Because some day in the future, it would probably matter to me.

“Baila, you’re sitting, good. Do you need a cup of water?” My mother walked over to my seat of honor, her face set in that take-charge mode. “Don’t worry about the guests, I’ll take care of them. You sit.”

I didn’t need water. I was drunk with happiness watching Temmy flounce from person to person with that charming smile of hers. I was so happy, I could almost dance.


Her shvigger-to-be linked arms with her and took her to a circle of her family, loudly commenting, “She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.” Temmy’s cocktail-length cream dress fit her like a glove. A custom-made glove.

“Why is she dressed so over-the-top fancy?” my mother had shout-whispered as soon as she’d come to help with the setting up. “Aren’t you afraid of an ayin hara?” That was the closest thing to a compliment; it meant that at least there was reason for ayin hara.

“Ma! It’s her vort! What should she wear? A sweater?” My nerves were frazzled, I had a jittery kallah, and there was a whole family to dress up.

I swiped at my eyes. It was my mother’s oldest grandchild. She should be floating with happiness.

My mother just shook her head disapprovingly. “She looks scrawny in it. You shouldn’t have allowed the seamstress to take in the seams this much.”

I looked at Temmy now. She didn’t look scrawny. Though maybe I was biased? She looked like a glowing bride — as she should — with shoulders erect and a smile threatening to tear her face in half.

Or maybe the dress was too fancy? I sometimes doubted my own sanity when my mother was around.

Then came the shrieks as Temmy’s friends took control of the house. “Temmy! Omigosh! You look stuuunning. You shocked us!”

“Yeah, she really did.” My mother was suddenly there, among Temmy’s group of friends. “It’s so young to get engaged, don’t you think? These are the best years of your life, girls. Enjoy them.”

The girls quieted. Temmy, in her gorgeous dress, froze. Her eyes searched my face. I, inconspicuously, put a finger to my lips.

Luckily, the moment passed. Another guest flew toward Temmy. My youngest sister, Naomi.

“Temmy!” She didn’t get the octave of the shriek right. It came out more like a quack. “Temmy! You look gorgeous!” She stood awkwardly, unsure if she should hug her or air-kiss her.

Temmy generously encircled her in a tight hug. “Naomi! Can you believe it?”

Naomi shook her head. “Honestly, no. I can’t. But I’m so happy for you!”

Temmy squeezed her again.

“Hey, but I’m the older twin!” Naomi joked. It wasn’t the best joke considering my mother was standing right there.

“Naomi,” my mother said sharply. “I want you to enjoy this year, not be busy shopping.”

That’s not what she’d told me when it took me the extra two years to get engaged. She told me if only I’d be more — just more — I’d long be married.

I always found the Donkeys to be beautiful double strollers. And imposing. My mother had a very firm belief about twins. They’re adorable. In other people’s strollers.

But when I finally laid eyes on my two miracles, only three days after the vort, I could barely breathe through the love (and exhaustion). They were two living miracles. Months of tension slowly seeped out of my overworked body as I counted 20 fingers and 20 toes on the two tiny girls weighing in at four-and-a-half and five pounds respectively.

I stroked their little noses and marveled at the barely there eyebrows before they were whisked off to the NICU for observation.

Baby A and Baby B were mine.

Pinny just kept repeating, “They were born. Can you believe it, Baila? They were born.”

I was too tired to answer.

I set out for the sleep that had eluded me for so many months of worries. When I woke up for another round of vitals, I saw ten missed calls from Temmy. I returned her call, certain she was going to ask what I needed from Baby Bliss or if she could order the Donkey with pink hoods.

But no, Temmy had no such worries. “Ma, we need to set a wedding date! We won’t find a hall if we wait.”

I firmly told her that we wouldn’t even discuss a date before I was out of the hospital. And, no, I didn’t care if the halls were booked and that there wouldn’t be hairdressers left at that point. “I never saw a kallah get married on the street or without her hair done, so there. And one week won’t make much of a difference,” I said.

“You’re right,” she conceded. “But as soon as you’re out, we’re booking.”

I was way more worried about a night nurse and going to a kimpeturin heim for a good long rest and a sojourn into denial of the hectic time that was to come, baruch Hashem.

In the kimpeturin heim, I was a celebrity — the mother of twins and a daughter a fresh kallah. Yes, to that Steinbuch.

“Seriously? The Steinbuch boy?” a Mrs. Friedman — or was it Klein? — looked at me enviously.

I nodded smugly. Yes, although I was a nothing-special-stay-at-home-mom, my daughter would marry a Steinbuch.

Another woman chimed in, “Your daughter is Temmy Apter, right? Teaches ELA at Bnos Sarah, right?”

I nodded again.

“My daughter is crazy over her!”

The Friedman or Klein woman looked positively green.

And yes, my maiden name was Heimlich, and yes, my mother was the real estate broker.

“Gosh! Your mother is Breindy? She’s a powerhouse!” Then came the inevitable, “So what do you do?”

“I put up my feet,” I said, pointing to the two babies I was feeding. Everyone laughed.

I marveled that nobody had even asked my first name. Because who cared that I was Baila? I was just “Temmy’s mother” or “Breindy’s daughter.” One could almost think those two loved each other.

But mostly my stay was about eating, feeding, sleeping, and schmoozing. “I hardly have a minute to myself,” I said wryly to the women sitting next to me. But in those few quiet minutes, when I looked at Goldy and Matty, the two princesses, all I was able to think was that in 19 years from now, they would both be in shidduchim, b’shaah tovah, and could they, please, miraculously get engaged the same night? And get a good job the same day, and the same part in production?

They were identical, so at least I didn’t have to worry about them looking the same.

When Temmy and Naomi had been born only hours apart, it had been even more of a sensation.

Pinny had been pacing the same worn hospital linoleum floors worn thin by thousands of pacing husbands when he nearly collided with his shver. So they continued pacing together, with Pinny staying considerably longer.

Finally, when the babies were born, and all the nurses stopped by to check out the mother-and-daughter duo with their baby daughters, we were placed in the same recovery room to enjoy our babies.

It was only when I was wheeled down the hallway to our joint room that it hit me. I would be sharing my first, long-awaited days of motherhood with my mother. She, the competent, experienced mother, and I, somewhat clumsy and teary-eyed.

I tried not to think about it and just smiled when my mother-in-law bought matching outfits for the joint kiddush. Then again, my mother helped me through the aches and pains and the challenges of nursing my newborn.

Had the… differences started in that hospital room already, when I blithely said, “Ma, look, have you ever seen such gorgeous hair, and such a pointy nose?”

I traced my fingers over Temmy’s nose and watched her lips turn up lazily in her sleep.

My mother’s baby was adorable, too. Because all newborns are. She was bald as a shiny McIntosh and her nose was proportionally oversized, but, hello, these babies were a few hours old.

“This newborn hair is nothing,” my mother responded, inspecting Temmy’s hairdo. The nurses had curled it up like a cinnamon bun, which made her entire face look different. “It falls out after a couple of weeks, and then it has to grow from scratch.”

I looked at her fearfully.

Then my mother told Pinny that Temmy’s dark complexion was from newborn jaundice, and I was lucky she wasn’t a boy because then the bris would’ve been delayed.

The hospital phone at her side of the curtain shrilled. My mother expertly guided a woman through the ins and outs of a house and promised to be in touch later about bidding a higher offer than the selling price, while I just stared open-mouthed at my mother. How could she take care of business when I could barely roll over to my side without wincing?

But when I looked at my baby, saw her dark eyes and rosebud lips set in a firm line, I knew this child would finally do her grandmother proud.

And she would’ve.

When one thing didn’t work, I went right on to the next.

There was this insatiable need inside of me to make my mother kvell from my — er Temmy’s — success.

“Ma! Temmy is reading. Can you believe it? She just picked up a book and figured out the words!” I’d called my mother when Temmy was only five.

How was I to know that my mother had an appointment with an eye specialist in Queens to check why Naomi didn’t recognize the alef-beis?

“Interesting… I wonder who she takes after.”

I hung up the phone then with an interesting taste in my mouth. Once again, I’d disappointed my mother. I’d planned the phone call all day.

I didn’t mention her reading again.

But at Temmy’s siddur play, when she sang that solo with a sweet pitch, my mother’s eyes twinkled. “Interesting. You were tone-deaf.”

And so was Naomi the next day when she performed with the parallel first grade class. But my mother sat glowing. “The sugar is all the way at the bottom of the coffee cup,” she commented as Naomi finished her song far from the tune she’d started with.

It became my mother’s new favorite line. Naomi was her baby, and to Mommy, she was all sugar.

On the other hand, the older Temmy got, the more my mother used the word interesting.

It was interesting she had so many friends and interesting she was dance head and super interesting she got a high-school job.

Almost like a surprise. Who woulda’ thunk Baila’s daughter could amount to much?

“Lists, Baila, lists,” my friend Chevy said the night I came home from the kimpeturin heim. “Writing it down is as good as done.

“I’m a chasunah educator,” Chevy continued seriously.

Chevy had married off a son and a daughter in the past two years, and all she did was talk about how draining and expensive it was, and she didn’t know how people did it. I was doubtful about her capability of being an educator.

The second pearl of wisdom: “Every day, you have to accomplish at least one thing for the wedding.”

“Chevy, stop! I have twins who are two weeks old! My house looks like a juvenile furniture store, toy store, and garbage dump all in one, and my kids need me,” I almost wailed. To illustrate the point, Yanky, my three-year-old who’d just returned home after staying at my sister-in-law’s house, pulled my skirt.

“Don’t worry. You’ll settle on a nurse tomorrow, and then welcome to chasunah land!”

I was so grateful for the brachos in my life, but as the first baby let out a wail and then the second one joined and promptly spit up all over herself, I realized that gratitude and overwhelm would fight a fierce battle for the foreseeable future.

The doorbell rang. I stood helplessly holding one baby covered in spit-up and eying Yanky, who was now dangerously close to the other baby.

“Temmy, get the door!” I called. She was downstairs preparing for the last week of school and she still had a student scheduled for a piano lesson. So no help on that end. Yitty was at the end-of-year overnight trip.

“Hi, Kallah,” I heard my mother greet Temmy.

“Hi,” Temmy said. I could hear the wariness in her voice.

“So how was the homecoming?” my mother asked, something hard edging her voice.

“Good,” Temmy said, blabbering as usual in my mother’s presence. “I’m busy with school. I’m helping the G.O. with closing assembly and finishing the last few lessons for my students, and I still have piano students.”

I cringed at Temmy’s ramblings. She was an articulate and charismatic teacher, yet she always spoke way too much with my mother.

“I can’t wait for vacation to hang out with Naomi!” Temmy continued. She was such a sweetheart, my daughter. She allowed my sister to tag along wherever she went just to give her that feeling of belonging.

I hurried downstairs.

“Hi, Ma!” I said brightly. “Thanks for stopping by.”

“I just had a showing on the next block and came to see how you’re managing.” She looked past my shoulder.

“Managing is relative.” I briefly, almost luxuriously, toyed with the idea of blocking the doorway, but gave up. I gestured to the flying kitchen and the toys on the floor.

“I can see,” my mother said without a smile. I heard Matty crying from the dining room.

I would’ve liked to think I was beyond caring, but I wasn’t. I usually took a longer time preparing for my mother’s visits than I did for my mother-in-law’s.

“Oh, Ma! Yanky is alone with her!” I ran to the dining room where Yanky was experimenting with Matty’s hair.

“You’re pretty much on your own,” my mother hinted broadly, following me. She picked up Matty and told Temmy to bring a better toy for Yanky.

“Well, Temmy is busy with a million jobs. Did I tell you they officially want her to take over extracurricular for next year? And she’s a fresh kallah,” I said defensively. “I’m getting a nurse tomorrow. I hope she’ll help with… everything.”

“A nurse is not enough,” she said. “If Temmy can’t help because she’s too busy, maybe Naomi can help. She has a sensible job which leaves her with breathing room.”

Right. Because my mother was thrilled that her daughter was a preschool assistant and spent her hours cutting construction paper.

As soon as Yanky was settled, and the two babies were finally quiet, Temmy retreated.

“Let’s make a list,” my mother said.

My head was pounding. “Yeah. Lists. The solution to all problems.”

While I went to fetch my wedding planner, my mother had the sink going and the dishes washed, she miraculously cleared the table, and I actually felt my head clearing a bit.

I often forgot how capable my mother was. I watched her quick movements and felt myself becoming smaller and smaller.

“So we have five months to the wedding, and you’re not going anywhere for at least another two weeks. You’ll start with phone calls,” she said authoritatively.

I meekly handed her the wedding planner Chevy had dropped off yesterday. She wrote a list of appointments I had to start with, from gowns to halls to sheva brachos arrangements. The list continued down to the bottom of the page.

She took a phone book and started putting numbers next to the names.

I looked at the list and found my eyes welling with tears. I needed my mother to leave.

“But don’t worry, Baila,” my mother said. “I’ll take the biggest load off you.”

I looked at her, hope in my eyes.

“The apartment!”


“I have all the contacts. I know of apartments before they hit the market. And no brokerage fee! It’s all on me!”

My mother usually dealt with sales rather than rentals, so this wasn’t exactly her line. But still, it was the last thing on my nonexistent list, actually. Not because we didn’t need one, but because finding a decently priced apartment in today’s market was so beyond my reach, I mentally shoved it to the back of my mind.

“Thank you,” I said, something uncomfortable niggling. “Just not too expensive, and somewhat close by.”

“Trust me,” my mother said.

Four weeks and four nurses later, I had the list thing down pat. All I had to do was copy the same list day after day because nothing got done.

With Yitty in sleepaway camp, I was treading diapers.

A tendril of hope had me davening that Patty, the latest nurse I hired, would last, because otherwise, I’d get to the wedding in a robe.

Temmy entered the kitchen where I was rewriting yesterday’s list. “Ma! We’re taking care of the necklace today. Ezriel’s mother keeps asking if we chose it already. I think she wants to give it in the Shabbos Nachamu package. And,” she looked at me with a twinkle, “you can use an outing.”

She was right.

It was one jewelry piece Ezriel’s mother felt had to be chosen by the kallah. “It’s something you wear for years, and I want her to like it,” she’d told me on the phone.

I didn’t really think so. I mean, a strand of pearls is a strand of pearls.

“Maybe Naomi can come along?” Temmy asked. “Babi is good with the Stessels and they’ll be sure to give us the royal treatment. They wouldn’t want to chas v’shalom get on Babi’s bad side.”

Temmy was such a sweetheart. Like, seriously, she needed Naomi for good service. If I didn’t know how different these two were, I’d almost think Temmy preferred her company. I could forgive that sarcastic comment.

Now, with a last round of instructions to Patty, we were on our way.

The air was thick and humid, but being on the street with empty arms had become a novel experience, and I relished walking with my arms swinging.

“So Temmy, did you go for a gown yet?” Naomi asked.

“Not yet. We have an appointment at Your Majesty in exactly a week from today.” Temmy gave a little shiver. “Can you believe it, Naomi? Me? In a gown?”

Naomi laughed. “Yup! Actually, I can! You’re made to wear a gown, Your Majesty.” She mock bowed.

With everything Temmy was going through, I felt she deserved to splurge on the gown. It wasn’t easy being a kallah during such a busy time.

“What do you say, Naomi? I’m thinking of a stiff silk with a bit of beading at the neck. You know, simplicity with a statement….” Her voice trailed off dreamily.

I startled. My mother would cringe if her einekel showed up in anything but lace. She’d just told me over the phone, “You’ll see. Silk is in today and out tomorrow, but a lace gown is everlasting.”

“Temmy, don’t you think a kallah belongs in all lace?”

She looked at me, her lips twitching. “I don’t like an all-lace gown. It looks like a tablecloth. But if you like lace, we’ll put on some.”

We crossed the avenue and finally walked up to the store.

We were buzzed inside, and Mrs. Stessel, my mother’s friend, greeted me. “Wow! Can you believe it? Breindy’s einekel, a kallah! So what do you have in mind?” She ushered us closer to the display window. “A pendant or the tennis look?”

She unlocked the display case and carefully removed a tray of diamond pendants.

The LED lighting mirrored the diamonds, and my eyes were transfixed by the gems.

“A nice strand of pearls,” I said.

“Pearls?” Temmy turned to me. “Uh, I was thinking diamonds.”

Oh! Why hadn’t we discussed this at home?

“Of course, Temmy. A kallah gets pearls.”

Temmy’s eyes welled. But she didn’t say anything.

I could feel my cheeks flaming.

“So… doesn’t a kallah need a strand of pearls?” I asked Mrs. Stessel.

She smiled diplomatically. “Pearls are always nice,” she said slowly, “but diamonds are definitely more in.”

Temmy stood woodenly, not meeting my eyes.

My mother had clearly warned me about this one, so I didn’t even have any doubts. “It’s crazy. These girls today get jewelry meant for a fiftieth anniversary. Did you see the Weiss kallah? A tennis necklace! What happened to classy pearls?”

Temmy would get pearls.

Suddenly, Naomi cleared her throat, “If we change our mind, can we exchange the necklace?”

“Sure.” Tziri Stessel looked relieved at the idea. “As long as you don’t wear it, you can always exchange it.” She returned the tray to the shelf and brought out a measly selection of pearls.

We chose a nice strand.

“It’s well within the price range your mechuteneste gave us,” Mrs. Stessel hinted.

“Great,” I said with false cheer. I had to smile on behalf of the sullen-faced kallah beside me.

We left the pearls there for Ezriel’s mother to pick up.

On the way home, I called my mother to update her. I didn’t have much company with Temmy and Naomi so quiet. I knew I’d done the right thing.

“So we just got a beautiful strand of pearls.”

“Lovely!” she crowed. “That’s so sensible. So classy and just elevates every outfit! I knew I could count on Tziri.”

Temmy was listening intently and hovering next to me to listen to the other side of the conversation.

I hung up, glowing. Until I looked at Temmy’s face

“Why the long face?” Pinny asked Temmy during his lunch break.

“Nothing,” Temmy said.


“But I really don’t like the necklace we chose.”

“So why’d you choose it?” he asked.

Temmy didn’t answer, and I busied myself with the babies.

Patty, next to me, muttered, “This baby feels warm.”

And then the second baby felt warm. And then they both felt hot. Then RSV set in and nebulizers joined the chaos. Around the clock, Pinny, Patty, Temmy, and myself kept vigil over the babies.

I was in the pediatrician’s office waiting tensely for the pulse oximeter to show Matty’s levels, when my mother texted me, I found the perfect apartment!

“Her oxygen level is borderline,” Dr. Sadler said, looking at Matty intensely. “You can take her home now, but be back tomorrow at nine, and I’ll recheck her. You know how RSV works, it gets worse before it gets better, and I hope this is the worst of it.”

On the way home, my mother texted again: We had better sign today if we don’t want them to give it away.

It was hard to text while pushing the Doona. I called my mother. “So tell me all about the apartment,” I said.

“It’s huuge! So many maalos. It’s not a basement, the kitchen is big… it has a porch! And best of all, it’s really well-priced!”

“How can that be?” I asked skeptically. The image of a forlorn strand of pearls came to mind.

“So… it’s not brand new. But a good paint and scrape will do the job!”

“Listen, Ma. We don’t need brand new at all. But there’s no way for me to do this now with the babies so sick. How long can it wait?”

“It can’t wait a day,” she said authoritatively. “The minute it goes onto the market, the price will go up. I think I’ll just sign. Can Pinny drop off the deposit?”

“I’m not sure I can do it this way. You know, uh, Temmy has to see it first.” I couldn’t risk it this time. Not with the gown appointment looming on Monday.

“Well, it won’t wait too long,” my mother huffed. “You know what? I think this will be my gift to you. I’ll sign and give the deposit.”

Matty coughed, her mini face scrunched in agony.

“She sounds terrible. Nebach! I don’t know how you do it, Baila.”

I warmed. My mother approved of my mothering.

“Maybe I should take Temmy to Your Majesty, then?” she continued.

“That’s kind of you to offer,” I said carefully. “Let’s see how the babies will be after Shabbos.”

WE got to see the apartment Sunday night. The bell curve of RSV had finally gone south, and the babies and I started breathing more easily. Naomi offered to babysit the kids while Patty would watch the twins.

“Let’s walk,” Pinny suggested. “This way, we can see how long it takes to get from our house to the apartment on Shabbos.”

No one said a word as we walked.

“Boy, you people are quiet,” Pinny said. “The noise in the house is so intense you’re relishing a bit of silence, huh?”

I nodded halfheartedly.

It was stupid the way a strand of pearls had come between me and Temmy. And Temmy wasn’t even saying a word about it, but the distrust in her eyes hurt.

“Okay, that was a thirteen-minute walk. Not bad,” Pinny said as we reached the address.

Temmy balked as she looked at the house. It was old, with blue, peeling siding and mini casement windows. We silently walked up the cracked driveway and found a rickety flight of stairs in the back of the house.

The three of us gingerly climbed the stairs.

My mother greeted us at the door with a huge smile. “Look at this porch! You’ll enjoy sitting out here with Ezriel. And wait till you see the kitchen.”

The “porch” was a moldy wooden deck with shaky spindles.

We walked through the door. A musty smell greeted us. The kitchen cabinets were dark-brown wood shellacked with layers of polyurethane.

“Brown?” Temmy asked quietly.

“Yes. Brown. And strong.” My mother opened a cabinet door proudly. It creaked. There were still rows of lace on every shelf from the previous tenant. “Look how many of them. Not like the apartments today.”

We walked into the dining room. “A door!” Pinny said. I looked at him for the first time. He actually looked thrilled. “Your husband is gonna love that the dining room has a door. He can close it and learn.”

A door? Men!

I looked at Temmy. Her eyes were huge. Her lips were pursed. I had a feeling she wasn’t a door-lover.

The bare bulbs cast yellow shadows, and the floors creaked. “The bathroom can use a little redo,” my mother continued, “but it’s worth a bit of investment for such a place.”

A little redo. It was yellow, with every third tile sporting a green diamond circa 1950.

“Temmy, a laundry room! Can you believe the jewel I found you?” My mother turned to Temmy.

Pinny was doing a little jig in the second bedroom. “Look at this! Two closets!”

I only saw a clunky air conditioner in the window.

Naomi greeted us cheerily. “The kids are all sleeping, and I even folded all the laundry.”

“Thanks, Sis!” I said tiredly. The house sparkled, and Naomi was humming as she finished the last pair of socks.

“So how was the apartment?” she asked. “Mommy doesn’t stop telling everyone that she found a dream place for you.”

“I hate it!” Temmy burst out.

Naomi’s face fell.

“It’s horrible! Old and… and… just brown.”

“So did you tell Mommy?”? she asked, turning to me.

I shook my head. “Pinny doesn’t think it’s that bad.”

Naomi looked at me. “And what do you think?”

I looked at Naomi and shrugged. I didn’t have an answer for her. I knew what my mother thought, what my husband thought, and what my daughter thought.

But I’d long since stopped knowing what I thought. In my head I heard a jumble of voices, my mother’s loudest of all.

And I realized that in the process of always listening to my mother, I’d cheated my family of my voice.

Erev Shabbos Nachamu, the doorbell rang. It was also the morning after Tishah B’Av, the house had laundry draped over chairs, and I was holding Goldy.

“Temmy!” Sruly, my seven-year-old squealed when he opened the door. “Look!”

I ran to the door breathlessly, arriving along with Temmy.

Temmy graciously thanked the delivery guy and took the classy package from him and dropped it on the kitchen counter.

“Very nicely set up for a nebby strand of pearls,” she said. “And I’ll still have to call and thank her for the gift,” she continued.

No one said untangling the voices in my head would be easy.

Temmy moved out of the kitchen.

“Aren’t you opening the box?” I asked gently. I played with Goldy’s pacifier clip, opening and closing it.

“I know what’s inside,” she said dully.

“Please do,” I said.

Grudgingly, she walked back to the gift-wrapped package and yanked off the glue.

Then she opened the box.

Inside was a gorgeous diamond pendant set in a combination of yellow and white gold.

“Wow!” she said. Her eyes welled. “Wow! This is… stunning.” She took the box and tilted it slightly so the diamonds caught the sunlight.

So this is what it feels like to listen to your own voice.

She gave a wet little smile, placed the gold strand around her neck, and went to the hallway mirror to examine her reflection. When she was back in the kitchen, she asked, “Did Ezriel’s mother change this?”

It would take time to build that trust. “No. I changed it before Ezriel’s mother even saw the pearls.”

“What did Babi say?” she asked tremulously.

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. I hadn’t even told my mother I’d changed the necklace. I was that scared.

ON Motzaei Shabbos Nachamu, I asked Pinny to come view the apartment again with me. It was eerie to walk up those steps in the darkness, and it was even eerier to view the apartment without my mother’s confident voice filling my head.

It was just me, with hope in my heart.

Together with Pinny, we measured, evaluated, and like real parents, made a decision that it really could work.

We’d change the brown cabinet doors and get LED strips, maybe a couple of pretty light fixtures, and change the moldings where they were chipped.

So this is what it feels like to listen to your own voice.

It had been warm and fuzzy to listen to my own voice about the necklace. After all, there were diamonds involved.

But when it involved gently telling Temmy that the apartment was really a great choice, it didn’t feel so fuzzy anymore.

Temmy was downstairs softly playing chuppah songs when we walked into the house. She’d been without her beloved piano for the Three Weeks, and it was nice to have music again.

“Temmy,” Pinny called.

She entered the dining room and looked at us. She was really our little girl who needed our clear guidance. And I was ready to offer her guidance, as long as she was ready to listen.

“Temmy, we went to look at the apartment again. Just Tatty and me,” I started gently.

She remained quiet. Her eyes darted between the two of us. We explained how she’d be happy every month paying less rent, how she’d appreciate the privacy, and how we were willing to invest in beautifying the place.

“But the decision is up to you,” Pinny said seriously. “You’ll be living there, shoveling the ice off the steps, and we want you to be happy with the decision.”

She nodded. “I hear,” she said simply. “I’ll think about it.”

“Sure,” Pinny said. “I just want to let you know,” he wagged his finger playfully, “that there are no apartments around. Sometimes you gotta trust your grandmother.” He winked at both of us.

I nodded. The babies started howling in the background.

But my mind was strangely quiet.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 896)

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