| Out of Step |

Out of Step: Chapter 56   

"I kind of had a crash course this year in growing up. You won’t know this, Deeny-beany, but I used to dance"

My arm is cramping. Omigosh, it really hurts, if I don’t move right now… Dina emits a tiny cry and shifts position. Phew! If she hadn’t moved just then, my arm would’ve broken off and then I would be out one leg and one arm. Uh, haha.

Weird gallows humor aside, I look down at the teeny tiny girl in my arms, and I can’t help it, my eyes fill with tears.

She’s just so new; her whole life is ahead of her, perfect, unblemished, filled with every hope and dream that we all have for her. And it doesn’t seem fair, because I know her life won’t be perfect. This little niece of mine is going to face challenges, hardships, disappointments. Maybe even heartbreak.

The door creaks open and an extremely tan face peeks into the living room.

“Hey, Tuls,” I say softly. “Welcome home!”

He gives me a thumbs-up and then sits down on the couch beside me, ever so carefully, and peers over.

“She’s so small,” he whispers.

I giggle, because he’s making small sound like a bad thing. I hold her out to him.

“Meet your niece,” I say. He takes her like she’s a bomb about to explode, but then she lets out a soft sigh and his face breaks into a happy smile.

“She’s really cute,” he coos.

“Yeah, she really is.”

We sit a minute and just look at her. Poor little thing has no idea that she was born into a world of men. Eh, she’ll learn quickly. Effie will make sure of that.

I turn to face Naftoli. He slides her back into my arms gingerly. I snuggle my face into hers and then look up.

“So how was camp in Eretz Yisrael?”

Naftoli looks at me and tilts his head.

He looks older, although it’s only been three weeks.

“It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”



I smile around the lump in my throat.

“I’m so glad.”

“Me too.”



“I was wrong, you know?”

I gaze at him solemnly. “I know. You always are. But about what?”

He rolls his eyes but laughs. “Ah, I didn’t miss you at all, sister dear. About the whole Baruch thing, taking the rap in an effort to spare him. I was trying to do something good, something nice. But it affected too many people. It hurt the rebbeim, Ma, Daddy, Babby, Zeidy. It even hurt Baruch. He couldn’t sleep or eat those months I was out of yeshivah. I was too tunnel-visioned, too focused on what I was trying to achieve.”

I don’t know what to say, so I drop my eyes.

“I… hear you, Tuls. So you’ll learn for next time, right?”

And his smile was a sharp contrast against his tanned skin. “Right.”

He claps me on the shoulder and walks off to unpack.

I look down at Dina. “That was your Uncle Naftoli,” I tell her quietly. “He’s a really good person. Much better than me. I’m learning, though. I kind of had a crash course this year in growing up. You won’t know this, Deeny-beany, but I used to dance. When you’re old enough to talk, that’ll all be behind me. And maybe I’ll tell you all about it then. But I was amazing. I used to fly. Do you know what I mean?”

I gaze at the fuzzy head, the fluttering eyelashes.

“I would spin and twirl and I was so certain of where life was taking me. I had a dream, and I was living it. But the thing is, Dina-bina, we don’t only get one dream. Because like Super Naftoli just said — yes, we call him that, you’ll learn — we sometimes get it wrong. And I see now that I wasn’t wrong to dream of dancing, but the way I dreamed it was wrong. I took it for granted and viewed everything as a certainty, when nothing really is. And between you and me, baby girl, I was kind of arrogant about the whole thing.

“And so my dream disappeared. And that hurt, you know? It still does. But I have a new dream now, Dinaloo. And it’s not in definite terms, per se. It’s more that I hope to always have real friends, friends who appreciate me, friends who I bring out the best in. I hope to always enjoy the things I do, and be good at them. And I hope I’ll never get too old or too tired to dream really big, or to dream the impossible.

“You see, Dina baby, when I go to sleep, late at night, after homework and sewing and walking, I fall asleep. And that’s when I finally, at long last, dance. With two healthy legs, light as a feather, graceful as a swan.”

She whimpers slightly and then begins to cry, which just makes her look even cuter. I stand up, balancing carefully, to find Goldie.

“I can’t promise you a perfect life, Dina baby. But I can promise you that you’ll find your way. Everyone does.”

The doorbell rings loudly just then and my face breaks into a smile.

“Even me.”

The End


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 832)

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