| Musings |

Silent Witness

The box of cigarettes and the car keys bear silent witness.

Bad enough they belong to my daughter. That I’m used to. But it’s Shabbos. We’ve become really adept at hilchos muktzeh. My husband’s patented shinui techniques include moving car keys with one’s teeth.

It’s amazing what the human mind can adjust to. Smoking? Check. Smoking by former seminary girl? Check. Piercings? Check. Tattoos? Check.

Then, on Motzaei Shabbos, I get a group text with a mazel tov about a new baby girl. Born to my daughter’s former classmate. The one who made her life miserable. It’s the former bully’s second kid. This undoes me. It’s harder than the tattoo, harder even than the cigarettes on Shabbos. Why? Maybe because I didn’t see the emotion coming.

These are the days I call PITS. Punch In The Stomach. The days when a big emotional tornado rolls in and hits me in the gut. The days where I’m suddenly reminded that my craziness is not normal. That though I’ve become filed down to a dull sheen, the exquisite pain is right there underneath.

On PITS days I am very nice to myself. I buy myself ice cream and take a bubble bath. I go to bed early and read a good book.

But most days are not PITS days. Most days are just me and my husband and cigarette boxes on the counter as though it were perfectly normal.


So they want to know what happened.

That’s what the shadchanim want to know. Because I have a son in Lakewood and this is not looking good. Having not one, but two daughters off the D is not just bad for shidduchim in theory (what’s wrong with this family) but in practice (girls want sisters-in-law they can be friends with).

My cousin, who was asked by one such shadchan, told me she gave him her “take” on the situation. What was it? I asked.

“My take,” she revealed, “is that you guys have a very open home. With all kinds of guests. And that it’s hard for kids to grow up like that.”

What really happened?

Lots of things happened. Life happened. ADHD happened. Bullying happened. Body dysmorphia happened. Take a jumpy kid and put her in a typical school system, and you know what happens?

Trouble and low grades and damaged self-worth.

Because it’s never about dropping out of Judaism. It’s about dropping out of life. Out of school and family and relationships. You know why? Because the poor kid feels damaged and unwanted. And usually there’s a really good reason for that.

You want to know what happened? Pain happened. Shabbos is just one of the casualties. I like how the shadchan think there’s some neat little answer.


The cigarettes and the car keys take on new meaning. What is a cigarette if not a clumsy attempt to self-soothe? What is chillul Shabbos if not an inability to be with oneself, to stay still? Why is this child always on the run? What, dear G-d, is she running from??

I catch a glimpse of her diary:

Red umbrella green trees

Running running from the light

Who am I running from

And why do I run

The pain catches up with me anyway

Red umbrella green trees

Stop go stop go

I can’t stop

And I can’t go

And so I run

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 619)

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Tagged: Musings