| Light Years Away |

Light Years Away: Chapter 51

. When will Israel wake up to the fact that Sunday isn’t meant to be a legal work day, especially when it comes right after a Shabbos sheva brachos?


“Old-timers’ base calling Mount Bliss. Please report conditions in the clouds.”

“Great.” Chaya’s eyes study the cracked beige kitchen counter, a relic of bygone days. Someday they’ll replace it. They’ll install a whole new kitchen. Until then, she can trace the cracks with her fingers, back and forth.

“What are the plans up there on the peak for this bright, fresh morning?” Nechami yawns into the phone. When will Israel wake up to the fact that Sunday isn’t meant to be a legal work day, especially when it comes right after a Shabbos sheva brachos?

“It really is a bright, fresh morning,” says Chaya. “Have you looked out the window?”

She has. When Moishy went out, she watched him down there on the sidewalk, her heart skipping in excited little jumps.

“What window? I hardly managed to drag the kids out of their beds, and then I went back for a second round to wake up the ones who sank right back onto their pillows.” Nechami goes to the window now. It’s a perfect day; the sky is blue and crystal-clear.

“I wanted to go over to the photographer’s office. The video editor asked us to come in and review some segments before they finalize the video.”

“You’ll go with Moishy?” Nechami is surprised.

“No, mah pitom. He went to learn.” Chaya rolls the new phrase on her tongue, relishing it. “His best friend is giving a chaburah today. I saw him off right after breakfast. How’s that for a kallah on her last day of sheva brachos?”

“I’ll send you a gold medal, special delivery to the mountain top,” Nechami says solemnly. “A shiny gold one, like in the comics.”

“Are you laughing at me?”

“Absolutely. Who’s going to laugh at your excitement, if not me? What did Hashem give you a sister for, if not to laugh at you? But you’re still a new kallah, you can’t go alone during sheva brachos. Who’ll be your shomer?”

“Umm…” Chaya feels awkward. She’s too strong to ask for help. “I thought maybe… maybe you have a free morning? Or even just to walk me there. I’ll figure out something for the way back.”

But Nechami doesn’t have a free morning. She has a long, tedious meeting with some new clients.

“My friends are in school now. And I don’t want to bother Abba and Ima.” Chaya considers her options. “The neighbor across the hall said she’d be happy to help if I need anything, but I don’t feel right asking her to do this….”

Nechami has an idea, breaking through the fog in her weary head. “How about Tovi? She slept over at Abba and Ima, because she had to go for some medical tests here in Jerusalem.”



Video editors don’t know anything. They see a picture of a girl talking with her cousins and the chassan’s nieces. “Is that you?” they say. “You looked great at the wedding!”

I smile modestly at the editor.

I remember how scared I was.

I’d picked out the earring with no trouble at all: a heart-shaped purple gem. It matched my gown perfectly. The piercing went well, too — the lady just shot it into my ear with the plastic gun, and that was it. I looked into the little mirror at the store and liked what I saw.

“Now we’ll do the other ear,” the lady announced. Abba scratched his beard awkwardly, looking toward the exit. “Umm… maybe not now,” he said.

The saleslady stared at him. “Why not? We always do both ears at the same time.”

I was feeling brave. I pushed up my blue velvet hairband. “My ear is in America,” I said. “You see? They’re making it for me now in the laboratory out of a special biological material. A little over a month from now, we’ll fly there, and they’ll implant it for me.”

“Wow, nice!” The lady wasn’t fazed. “Just like Kiletz’s baby, from the Kiryah. Do you know them?”

“Yeah,” I said knowingly. That was the nephew of those two girls I met that time.

“So you should have hatzlachah, then,” she said warmly, “and mazel tov on your aunt’s wedding. You’d better take the other earring home, and keep it safe. It might get lost here in the store. After your operation you can come back with it, and we’ll pierce your other ear.”

She said it so matter-of-factly, as if she had girls coming in every day to get one ear pierced and come back two months later with another ear. I was blushing. And very excited. Not about the earring. Well, that was exciting, too. But mainly because the conversation had been so normal. My heart was pounding, but I enjoyed every moment.

I only started feeling scared when we left the store. I’d be going to school the next day with one earring, and the girls would ask questions. I would go to Chaya’s wedding with one earring, and everyone would ask me questions. They might embarrass me, or say it looks strange, and they’ve never seen such a thing before. They’ll say, “Doesn’t it bother you?” and the question itself will bother me. I’ll feel terrible.

“Is your ear hurting?” Abba asked.

“No,” I said. “I’m just… scared.” I held his hand tight. “I’m afraid people will say all sorts of things.”

“Oy, Tovi,” he said. “We warned you about that, but you insisted.”

“I know.”

“Do you want to go back to the store, and we’ll ask them if they can take the earring off for now? And then maybe we’ll come back after your surgery and have them put both earrings in?”

“No,” I said. “I want to do this, even though I’m scared. Even if people say things to me, I know I can deal with it.”

And they did.

And I dealt with it.


“This scene with the nieces is so cute.” Efrat, the video editor, runs the segment. “What are you telling them there, Tovi, that has them all open-mouthed like that?”

“One of the chassan’s nieces asked me why I was only wearing one earring. So I started telling them wild stories about my ear. I told them I was attacked by sharks, and then I said no, what really happened was a branch fell from a tree in a storm, and it cut my ear off. And they believed me!”

“Seriously?” Chaya laughs.

“Seriously.” Tovi can hardly get the words out, in between giggles. “They sat there staring at me with pale faces and big eyes… they almost forgot to breathe. Of course, Sari Bernfeld knew I was making it all up, but she didn’t spoil the show. She even added some new details. In the end I told them I was getting surgery to put the ear back on, and they all sighed with relief.”

“I hope your mother didn’t hear you telling them all that nonsense,” Chaya said.

“Don’t worry, she was sitting with all the old aunts, nowhere near us. It would’ve been worse if my father heard me. He would’ve said it isn’t proper to scare bnos Yisrael with horror stories!”

“So should we put this scene in?” Efrat asks.

“Of course we should,” says the young kallah. This is part of my life, she thinks. My first niece, and this is what she’s grown into.

“Okay. So now we have the segment with your mother, where they’re taking the studio photos. I really wanted to include this, but the shots of your mother, they’re… not very flattering. What do you think?”

Video editors don’t understand anything. Not a thing.

“Whisper something in the kallah’s ear,” the photographer had said to Ima. And Ima whispered something in Chaya’s ear, and she’d whispered back thanks for everything, and she was so glad she’d been raised in that house.

And then Dudi and Yaffa’le had walked in, with big smiles. A bright yellow spot swam before their eyes like a broken egg yolk. Yaffa’le’s short dress.

And Ima’s hand, holding hers, had stiffened. “Ima, please,” Chaya whispered, and the photographer didn’t know what she was whispering. She thought she was continuing what she was saying before, and she kept on filming, hyperfocused. “Ima, please, do it for me. Smile at her, okay? Don’t… don’t…”

Was it any wonder that Ima didn’t look her best in those frames?

“Leave that bit out,” Chaya says decisively.

“Now, in this bit, your mother’s in a side circle with these ladies. I was debating whether to put it in, because the focus isn’t great, but she looks so good.”

Ima’s friends. Oh, those friends of Ima’s… Ruchama and Faigy, Malka and Yocheved, dancing with her, taking elegant, elderly steps, smiling as if they share a secret known only to them.

“Put that in,” Tovi pipes up. “Those are my savta’s friends, and that’s the most important circle in the whole wedding!


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 895)

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