Then I see the large white envelope, and I’m transported to a winter day some 15 years ago
It’s time to tackle the storage closet.
There’s a layer of dust on the uppermost shelves; it’s been collecting there for two years now.
I keep procrastinating. I know I’ll need to discard half the contents to reclaim some storage space, and I find parting with memorabilia hard.
I rip the first box open. Photo albums: keepers. Books: I sort them into a pile to keep and a pile to donate.
And then comes the box of letters from past students, now all grown, accompanied by pictures of when they were fresh-faced and adorable, resembling the little people hanging on to their strollers these days.
There are a whole bunch of old poems I’d written to people who once meant so much to me, but are now woven into the fabric of my past. I flush as I get a glimpse of a younger version of myself extolling praises and sharing love. I slowly move them into the trash so I can pretend I’ve always been a grown-up.
Then I see the large white envelope, and I’m transported to a winter day some 15 years ago. I remember the sweater I was wearing — teal blue, with a ruffle going down the center. I’d picked it up at Century 21 on one of my retail therapy trips after a disheartening obstetrician’s appointment. I needed many of those back then.
I can see myself glancing at my reflection on the mirrored wall of the luxurious lobby, staring at the 21-year-old unbelievably. Is this me? In this tall Manhattan building? Carrying this terrible knowledge in my heart? I exit the building, parting ways with my husband, who was taking the car to a simchah in Lakewood.
In a trance, I watch this younger version of myself get into the chesed car that would transport me back to my tiny starter apartment. I see myself crying as the afternoon traffic gives way and the car eases into the darkened Lincoln Tunnel, the pain burbling up in my chest and spilling onto the pages of my Tehillim.
I was thankful I didn’t know anyone in the van, hoped that my co-passengers would just think I’d made a difficult visit to a hospitalized loved one.
I see myself trudging into my apartment, where it hit me in all its morbidity. “Fifty percent,” the doctor had said in a monotone. “There’s a 50 percent chance that there’s anything to do.” The news didn’t come as a shock. I’d finally decided to face the demons after eight months of denial, and hear directly from the doctor what my chances were of having a child.
That didn’t make it less excruciating.
I see my younger self registering that the light is blinking on my phone, then listlessly listen to the voice mail; anything to drown out the tormenting voice in my brain.
“Hi, I’m returning your call from A TIME; we’d love to speak with you.”
Still choking over tears, I see that shy girl calling back, my voice breaking as the warmth reached across the wires and into my dark home. Night was soon to fall on this winter day, but I hadn’t even bothered to turn on the lights.
Warmth entered my younger self’s heart, the knowledge that I wasn’t alone allowing the despondency to lift just a bit. I see myself changing out of my teal sweater and somehow getting ready to face the world again, knowing there was someone who understood.
I see myself taking pen to paper and writing a letter of thanks, by hand, expressing just how much this lifeline meant.
And just days later I was holding this very envelope in my hand, marveling at the $1.28 postage cost, the smooth paper like a certificate of belonging.
And now, ever so quietly, so as not to wake my precious youngsters sleeping across the hall, I slide the envelope open and read the text again — the words I’d read over and over back then when my world had collapsed. When we couldn’t let anyone in on the secret that was too big to carry on our young, fragile shoulders. When the realization that someone cared so deeply helped me get up and carry on.
Dear Rochel, the handwritten letter read.
Thank you for your letter! It moved me to tears.
You are not alone. A TIME is here to help.
And in a large, embracing script is the signature: Brany Rosen.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 753)
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