I stare at my sister-in-law. Maybe she has sunstroke? “Goldie. I can’t have clients. I don’t have a business”
Nothing says summer like a long shopping spree while sipping a Dunkin’ Donuts iced caramel latte. Goldie holds up a blue and white tie-dyed T-shirt for my approval, I give her a thumbs-up and lean over to tickle Effie. He’s getting so big and, honestly, the kid gets cuter every single day. I don’t think he has any clue he’s about to become a big brother, but I guess his parents will cross that bridge when they come to it.
We try on a bunch of stuff, and then head across the road to Bath & Body Works to stock up on their newest summer lotions. “Mmmm,” I say as I breathe in deeply. There’s coconut and vanilla and something that can only be described as suntan lotion in the moisturizer I’m holding. Goldie is torn between two candles, she’s letting Effie smell them. I crack up, because if we let one-and-a-half-year-olds make all of our choices, we’d probably be in pretty good shape.
I leave the mall laden with bags; Goldie just has her candles.
“I think if I’m going to find a summer dress, I’m going to have to look in the frum stores,” she says. So we pull onto Coney Island and get out, trying not to melt in the 90-degree weather.
Goldie is whisked away by an overeager salesgirl, and I rock Effie back and forth, spacing out a little. I shake my head to clear it, and tune in to a girl, obviously engaged and shopping for sheva brachos, clearly super agitated.
“It’s just, like, ready-made,” she says. The salesgirl looks confused, so the girl elaborates. “Like I would feel like I bought something out of a catalog and stuck it on, you know? I want to wear my clothing.”
Now the salesgirl looks like she’s going to cry. I figure it’s time to step in.
“You know, you can change them to look exactly how you want them to.”
The kallah turns slowly, and looks at me so dramatically that it’s all I can do not to burst out laughing. Honestly, there are tears sparkling on her eyelashes. Literally, like in the books.
I resist the urge to say, “There, there, shhhh,” and instead lean over Effie and sweep the hair out of his eyes.
The girl blinks at me. “I’m sorry, what do you mean? You see, I’m engaged and sheva brachos and it’s too much, and my mother, and then—”
Goldie appears right then and interrupts the hysteria.
“Tirtza! Is that you? Ohmygosh, mazel tov!” The two girls hug and scream and admire Tirzta’s diamond ring. Ha. Figures Goldie would know her.
Goldie breaks away. “Oh, Tirtza, this is my sister-in-law, Bella Rena.”
I give a little wave.
“Sister-in-law? So cute! So Bella Rena, what were you saying before? About changing the clothing to how I like things?”
Goldie gives a little shriek. “Tirzta, Bella is amazing at design, you need her.”
“No, I, uh, was just saying, buttons, white, maybe pearls, and—”
Shoots, now I’m as incoherent as Tirzta. Maybe it’s catchy?
“I cannot believe you.”
Goldie smirks and pulls into the driveway. “What? I thought you had offered your services.”
“Well, now I know that. But too bad, Tirzta Cohen is now your forever client. You’re welcome.”
I stare at my sister-in-law. Maybe she has sunstroke? “Goldie. I can’t have clients. I don’t have a business.”
Goldie bops me on the nose. “So maybe you need to make a business.”
When it rains, it pours. I am just working up the courage to call Pearlie White and vent about Goldie’s little manipulation, when my phone bursts into song. It’s Shayna.
I’m torn. I love Shayna, I really do, but I have no energy to assure her, or anyone, that I’m fine, life is great, I’ve totally forgotten about ballet, about the feeling of flying through the air in a pirouette, the slap of a ballet slipper after a jeté, the elegance of an arabesque…. Okay, maybe I didn’t exactly forget, but I definitely don’t dream of it anymore. Uh, at least not every night. And I definitely don’t want to be all peppy about, “I have a new passion in life, sewing. Yup, sewing! Love me some thread.” Yeah, not happening.
So I don’t answer. But then she tries me again. And it’s Shayna. So I pick up.
Ma looks up from the cupcake batter Shimshon is helping her spill into muffin tins. You know, mostly.
“Wow. Bella Rena! She wants you to teach the Bunnies? That’s such a great idea!”
The Bunnies are the three- and four-year-olds, the youngest ballet group in Shayna’s studio.
I stare at Ma, not sure she heard me correctly. “The Bun-nies,” I enunciate.
Ma looks at me. “Yes, thank you, I heard. So what’d you tell her?”
I’m so agitated, I accidentally plop my hand into a raw cupcake. Yeeech.
“Gross. What’d I tell her?” I ask, as I wipe my hand down. “I told her no but thank you.”
Ma hands Shimshon the container of sprinkles and turns to me. “And why on earth did you do that?”
“Because.” I choke up and then clear my throat. “Because I can’t teach children to love something that I’ll never have again.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 828)
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