When I open the door, I’m greeted with a wave of sound and the smell of curry. Who’s here?
The last two weeks before production, life actually picks up speed, like a train leaving a station and crawling, then gliding, then hurtling faster, faster, faster.
There’s class and homework and play practice and scenery and cousins and classmates and fun with Faiga and the scenery girls, and sometimes I get home to Bubby’s late at night and realize it’s the first time I’m sitting still in many, many hours.
Today, Michal informs us a few days before production, clapping her hands together, we are finishing the second scenery.
“Finishing! That means finito, complete, ab-so-lute-ly done,” she pronounces, making wide, scary eyes at all of us.
“Oh, we’re not spending another year perfecting it?” Sari asks innocently, then she ducks behind Devorah.
“No way!” Michal says.
We settle down to the forest scenery. It should be easier — there’s not much variety or complex pictures here — but we’re literally painting the trees leaf by leaf, using a million shades of green. I’m not sure I’ll be able to look at green paint again after this.
“So Ashira, now you’re a celeb. My sister Pessy couldn’t stop raving about your speech to that high school,” Sari says, grinning, as she dabs white into her lightest green.
I give a small smile. “Thanks, but seriously, I wish they’d get over it. It was fun for me and was just a few minutes.”
“I could neeeever do that,” Esther says. “I think it’s amazing.” She’s got her paintbrush covered in dark, forbidding, forest green. She and Sari are sitting side by side, painting leaves at random.
“Heeeey, hold off,” I say. “We want lots of shades, but they have to make sense. Sari, that should be used nearer the top, or anywhere that the sun can hit. You could sprinkle a few light leaves further down; they should mostly be lots of shades of dark.”
“Oh yeah, right, you told us that.” Sari shifts over.
“Anyway, Ashira, it’s not just your class, this Libby Shine was talking about you, also,” Michal says, joining the conversation.
Libby Shine again. Uh-oh.
I’m suddenly acutely aware of the strong pounding of my heart.
This Libby Shine who saw my diary and brought it home… what’s she saying about me?
Is she telling everyone about my fears about the political stuff in India? How much I miss my family? Raizy and Tammy and all the social stuff that I act too cool to care about?
“So, uh, what did Libby Shine have to say about me?” I ask, would-be casual. Is that the right thing to say? Does my voice sound high-pitched, strange?
“Well, she’s super into you, that’s for sure. Thinks you’re some kind of gift to humankind.”
“Which you are. Or at least G-d’s gift to the scenery,” Devorah interjects, laughing.
“Ha, ha. You know what I mean.” Michal pauses to survey the scenery. “Don’t you think we need a bit of color here? Like, not just green green green?”
“We are not starting with pink flowers,” Sari and Devorah say together.
“Okay, okay, whatever.” Michal doesn’t like to be contradicted. She stops talking, and I’m left itching to know what else Libby Shine said about me. Sounds like it was… positive. But why? Did she think I’m a good writer or something? Have a sense of humor? Ugh.
By the time I get back to Bubby’s after we finally, finally finish the scenery, I’m craving a slice of silence and a drink. Hopefully I can grab a snack and head upstairs to unwind, eat supper later.
But when I open the door, I’m greeted with a wave of sound and the smell of curry.
“Ashira! Come join the party,” Aunt Chana appears — who else? — waving a spatula. Aunt Shevi’s right behind her, and they’re both giggling like teenagers.
What on earth?
“Indian cuisine,” Shevi announces. “We’re practicing for when your family comes!”
Oh, really, now.
“Ha, ha, very funny. You know my mother cooks normal food.”
Aunt Chana feigns innocence. “Oh, but is this not very normal?” She waves a hand behind her, indicating the pots and foil pans scattered around the kitchen.
“No, not really,” I tell her.
Aunt Shevi pretends to swoon.
“What’s this for, anyway? Supper?” I ask, eyeing some kind of crispy pastry with a delicious-smelling filling.
“You can have some,” Aunt Chana says. “But really it’s for the birthday bash. You know… oh wait, maybe you don’t?”
“We have this yearly thing, there’s a bunch of birthdays all at the same time of year — Zeidy and both Leahs and Uncle Yossi and Gitty — so we do a big birthday party all together, at Bubby’s house,” Chana explains. “Anyway, this year we figured we’ll do Indian-inspired cuisine and do a round-the-world theme, not too major, but should be cute.”
I look around; there are at least six different dishes cooking or cooling off. And is that a huge birthday cake in the oven?
“It looks kinda major to me,” I comment.
Aunt Chana pats my shoulder. “You’re a doll, Ashira. Take something to eat, we need testers.”
“If you insist,” I say, laughing.
My aunts are so much fun.
But between sampling Indian cuisine and helping them plan the birthday program, it’s another hour before I get upstairs to my quiet haven again.
Whoooooooooooooooaaaaaa… it’s been a long, long, jam-packed day.
There’s so much swirling in my head, my aunts and school and the scenery girls and I need to get it all out of my head, just to process it.
I want to write in my diary, I realize.
I lay the palm of my hand on the cool green leather.
The last time I wrote was… weeks ago. Before this Libby Shine found the diary and started calling (she seems to have given up calling me, phew). Before the interschool kiruv event and my speech. Before life got hectic and overwhelming and honestly, fun.
It’s hard to believe that it’s happened, that life in London feels good, feels right. I’ll always love being with my family in India, but also, I feel at home here, too.
I set my pen down, distracted momentarily.
I haven’t spoken to them in… a while. A few days. Wow.
I haven’t even noticed.
A tendril of anxiety weaves its way into the contentment I’ve been feeling.
I haven’t called my family… and they haven’t called me either.
Well, I’ve been busy. Maybe they’re also just… busy?
No news is good news. Right?
Yes, I decide. If I haven’t heard anything, I don’t have to worry.
But still, I wonder.
It’s too late to call my parents tonight. Tomorrow, I resolve, I’ll call.
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 978)
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