| Jr. Serial |

Home Ground: Chapter 33 

Tammy? Oh, no, that’s going to be so awkward. We haven’t said a word to each other in weeks


The classroom is a happy hubbub, noise and chatter and everyone giving their take on the latest announcement.

“Girls! Girls, I know you’re excited,” Mrs. Gerber says, raising her voice slightly, but still smiling. “I have one more thing to say. There will be two girls leading the program, Ashira Newman and Tammy Fischer. I’m sure you’ll do a great job.”

My smile stays plastered on my face, but my heart has just dropped to my toes. Tammy? Oh, no, that’s going to be so awkward. We haven’t said a word to each other in weeks.

Act normal, pretend everything’s okay.

I turn to Tammy as if we’re being introduced for the first time, give a little wave. She smiles back, a wide, too-happy smile. Fake, fake, fake. Oh, no.

I still can’t really figure out what happened. We were friends sort of, or maybe she was friends with me, then she wasn’t, and now I’ve been, well, busy with new friends. The scenery girls. Faiga.

And I know that Tammy’s lonely.

Ugh, I haven’t been nice but also, what should I have done? Gone running after her? No.

Well, we’re working together now. I wonder if she’s going to use it as an opportunity to make friends again.

Spoiler alert: she doesn’t.

At lunchtime, when she’s slowly packing her bag — too slowly? — I go over. We’re going to be collaborating; I want to get this right. Or start it right, at least.

“Hey, partner,” I say, lightly.

“Hiii,” Tammy says, looking up. Her voice is just as fake-happy as her smile.

“Um, should we work on the planning today?” Prodding the conversation on is painful. C’mon Tammy, say something.

“Yeah, sounds good,” she says.

Oooooooooookay. She must have been super hurt. I’m surprised, because honestly, what was the big deal with what happened? But anyway, moving right on.

“My place or yours?”

“Whatever you prefer.” Tammy smiles sweetly. If I’d never met her before, I’d just think this was her normal.

I think for a moment. Bring Tammy home to Bubby’s house? Why not, I guess. I’ve never had a friend over. It’ll make their day. Maybe they’ll think it’s this mysterious Libby Shine. Yuck.

I haven’t touched my diary since it was returned after I left it in school. I’m too scared to see what she might have read. Maybe I should get over myself, start writing again. I miss it.

Tammy comes straight after school, which means I have no time to check what my room looks like before bringing her inside. Ugh, I hope it’s not too bad.

“Here we are,” I say, pushing open the door. There are a few books and magazines on the floor near the window, I pick them up quickly, straighten the things on my desk. Good enough.

Tammy settles in the desk chair and I bounce onto my bed.

“Okay, ideas time,” I announce.

Tammy picks up a pen from my desk and starts playing with it, clicking the nib in and out. The noise is starting to irk me.

“Like, a getting-to-know-you game? I mean, the classic is that quiz where you have to find a different girl who fits each category… know what I mean?”

I do know; we did it in camp one year when we spent the summer in the States.

“Maybe,” I say. Honestly, to me it’s eye roll-worthy boring, but I don’t want to hurt Tammy’s feelings.

“Or we can do the icebreaker game, freeze a bunch of things in ice and then it’s like Pass the Parcel, just with this huge frozen block of ice, and whoever gets it has to try to cut the ice to get to the next prize or note, or whatever.”

That’s adorable. I’m pretty sure we did it once at home. “Love that idea but might be hard to get a block of ice to school and frozen solid in time for the program to start.”

“Hmmm.” Tammy points to the stack of Post-its on my desk. “Can I take? Doodling helps creativity.”

“Yeah, sure. We could do with some creativity flow.” I lie back on my bed, try to remember all the activities we did at home at various parties and events. There must be something that’s perfect for an icebreaker getting-to-know-you kind of program, which also has some kind of a message.

I wish I could call my parents; they’d have ten ideas straight off the bat.

“What kind of things did you do in India?” Tammy asks.

“I can show you,” I say, and pull my photobooks off the shelf. We’d worked on these books for what, a year, Ima and I, pulling together family pictures from the past ten years and designing photobooks as keepsakes. Ima had printed two copies of each, one for the family, one for me to take with me to London.

They were fun to make, but even more fun to look through. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve flicked through them now.

“Here’s a Purim party we made a few years ago, we did this lottery card game… and a Chol Hamoed Succos event. We didn’t really do games there, more singing and dancing and food, maybe we had a guess-the-song program? Here’s my mother and sisters and me preparing for Rosh Hashanah in our community shul. It’s one of the only times we have a minyan there. We did a lot of explanation and stuff, not a program like we need to prepare.”

Tammy looks enthralled. “It doesn’t look like… I mean, I thought India would be, y’know, different looking,” she says.

I laugh. “Most of these pictures are taken inside the house, which doesn’t look that different. It’s not like we live in a thatched hut with a dirt floor.”

“Hey, how would I know?” Tammy’s smiling now, a real smile. I guess photobooks do that to people; they’re so much fun to look through. Like taking a glimpse into someone else’s life.

I turn the page; there’s a picture of a somewhat dirty marquee, followed by a view of the inside: rows of chairs split into two sections, facing each other.

“Oh, this was amazing, we just need a buzzer thingy,” I say.

“What is it? Some sort of game?”

“Yeah.” I flip forward, but there are no more pictures. “We did it once when two big groups of backpackers came at the same time. They didn’t know each other, and we wanted to kind of break the ice, get to know everyone… we played a live version of Guess Who. Everyone stood in their rows, one person from each group was the Guesser. They asked a question, like, is he an only child? The person chosen had a buzzer behind his back, and he used that to answer yes or no.”

“So say he said yes, everyone who wasn’t an only child sat down?” Tammy asks.

“Exactly. It was pretty cool, racing between the teams. And it really broke the ice, after the game.”

“Wow. Sounds perfect.”

I nod and smile. How fun would it be to tell Ima we’re doing this?

“So where do you get these buzzer things from?”

I shrug. “I’m sure we can order them. Did Mrs. Gerber say something about a budget?”

“I’ll ask her tomorrow. And you’ll find out where we can buy them?”

“Sure.” I’ll ask Aunt Chana to look it up for me; she’ll be happy to help.

“Great,” Tammy says. She smiles, but her tone is business-like. She stands up, puts the doodled-over Post-it in the garbage can, and nods. “So once we find that out, we can plan further.”

Oh. So she’s ready to leave, then.

I walk her to the door. She leaves the house without a backward glance.


To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 976)

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