| Normal |

Normal: Chapter 22

Don’t cry, don’t make a fool out of yourself. Seriously, Mimi, get a grip, it’s just grades.


“Mimi? Is that you?”

Mimi peers into the living room, surprised. Her parents are sitting there, and the rest of the room is empty.

“Hi,” she says. “Um, where’s everyone?”

Ma waves a hand vaguely. “Out, upstairs, wherever,” she says. “Come sit, Mimi, okay? We want to talk to you.”

Mimi perches on the two-seater couch, opposite her mother. Ta sits in the armchair, hands on his knees, leaning forward.


“You went to gymnastics today?” Ma says, eyes traveling from Mimi’s casual bun to the gym bag over her shoulder.

Mimi feels irrationally nervous. “Um, yeah, is that… a problem? I had a private coaching session.”

“That’s nice,” Ma says, smiling brightly. “With… Toby? Tovi?”

“Tova.” Mimi presses her lips together. She’s not going to talk, not going to dig herself in deeper before she even knows what this is all about.

“So what’s this coaching for?” Ta’s talking now, looking at her intently. Mimi feels floored, caught in the spotlight.

“Um, nothing, she just said… she thinks I’m doing well, wanted to give me some more tips. She offered me coaching every day… and also, she thinks I can get training to start doing coaching myself.” She hadn’t planned to share this, but the words tumble out, half-happy, half-proud, half-nervous. She sneaks a glance up. Ma offers a small smile, but Ta is frowning.

“That’s wonderful, Mimi, that you’re doing so well in gymnastics.” He says it like it’s a big problem. “What we have to discuss with you, though, is…” He clears his throat significantly. “Your grades.”

Mimi’s heart does a none-too-graceful dive to her toes. No. Just no.

“Your mechaneches called, she’s worried about how you’re managing the schoolwork,” Ma says. “How do you feel about it, Mimi?”

How does she feel? Overwhelmed, done, finished. It’s all too much, the workload, the pressure, the seminary test… but what is she actually going to tell her parents? What can they even do about it?

“I’m trying my best,” she finally mumbles. “It’s just… really hard, 11th grade. I don’t get half the stuff they’re talking about in class. And I spend hours studying, but the tests are still impossible….” To Mimi’s horror, her throat closes up, and the last word emerges a squeak. Don’t cry, don’t make a fool out of yourself. Seriously, Mimi, get a grip, it’s just grades.

Ma makes a sympathetic-sounding noise, and Ta says, “Look, Mimi, we’re not doubting you’re trying, but it seems that it’s going to take a little more. Ma and I are happy to arrange for tutoring after school, and we’re asking from your end that you put your schoolwork above anything else in your life, any hobbies and socializing. Maybe you can study with one friend, someone who’s a help to you, not just these group parties that waste tons of time. Let’s see what you can do with more help and more focus, okay?”

Mimi’s mind struggles to process. Tutor. Time. Schoolwork. Putting it above anything else….

“But I have gymnastics. Wednesdays and Sundays. I’m not stopping that, I need it.” Her voice rises. “I’ll do the tutor, whatever, I’ll figure out studying, but I’m not…”

“We didn’t mean giving up gymnastics totally, Mimi,” Ma says soothingly. “Just… it’s not a great time for extra coaching right now. How about you hold off extras and continue going to Wednesday’s classes, and we’ll see how that goes?”

Mimi struggles for breath, for words. How to explain that this isn’t just a hobby, it’s her oxygen, her lifeblood? That gymnastics gives her a reason to get up in the morning, to plod through another day in school, another day dealing with her suddenly complicated friendship sagas?

And becoming a coach… the dream is so real she can just about touch it.

“I’ll manage both,” she finally mumbles. “The extra gymnastics, and also the studying… I’ll be on top of it.”

Ma looks over at Ta uncertainly.

“Look, Mimi, let me be straight with you,” her father says. “Gymnastics is an extra. Right now, you’re in school and your grades are important. Your focus should be on your schoolwork, and time is limited. Just for practicality’s sake, you need Sundays and evenings free.”

Her throat fills with horror. They can’t be saying this, they can’t. “I’ll have time for both,” she whispers. “Let’s see in a few weeks, okay? I’ll keep doing gymnastics, and I’ll make sure to study and everything….”

Ta is quiet for a moment too long. Finally, he says, “For now, you can keep doing what you’re doing, and we’ll see how things go. But if you’re still struggling to keep up, it’ll just be a short-term thing, leaving gymnastics. Just for now, when you need to really put your head into your schoolwork. Afterward, you can take it up again, no problem.”

Ta knows nothing about gymnastics. If she takes a few months off exercising, routines, practice, she’s done. Mimi gives a tiny snort of laughter. “Yeah, right.” Like that would be any use.

“Mimi!” Ta is upset. With good reason, Mimi has to admit. She flushes.

“Sorry,” she mumbles. But really, really really, the idea is ridiculous. If she leaves gymnastics now, she leaves for good.

Ta softens his tone. “Look, Mimi, I know this is hard for you, but think about it, gymnastics isn’t going to go on forever anyway. Soon you’ll be in 12th grade, and then you’re off for seminary. It’s a hobby, it’s healthy, but it’s just… right now, you need to prioritize your responsibilities.”

She can’t hear anything. Can’t process a word. All Mimi can think, over and over, is, don’t take gymnastics away from me also.



(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 911)

Oops! We could not locate your form.