Oh, Shifra, right back to perfect. I mentally shook my head. I need to keep an eye on you
"What a treat — I get to see you courtesy of Skype.” Shifra smiled from my screen.
It was wonderful to see Shifra. Abby might have thought she needed a boost, but Shifra looked fine — more than fine, perfect. It was 10 p.m., she was in her ninth month, and she was still in her sheitel.
“I know! Please excuse my snood. I just wanna schmooze, no fashion help today. But also, I need your help.”
Shifra brightened with the word help. I was going to have to get her through the back door.
“It’s so great to be talking to someone I can just be myself with.” I paused. “This rebbetzin thing is not my type and it’s not as easy as I thought it would be. Really rough going, if I’m being honest. There’s this woman, she’s head of the Neshei — I need to come up with the right words or something to get her to like me or at least leave me alone. Maybe you can help.”
Shifra gave an exaggerated frown. “So sorry, Chana.”
“Yeah, I thought I could just breeze into it, but every day it’s something else.”
Shifra was nodding along, Oh, please, Hashem, let her open up. She pulled her phone closer to her face; I could see the bags under her eyes. “I know what you mean. I’m not a rebbetzin, don’t ever plan on it, but this baby thing, it’s throwing me for a loop.”
I nodded. Please, please, continue.
“I’m excited.” Shifra dropped her voice until she was almost whispering. “But I’m also scared out of my mind.”
“Ding, ding, ding!” I mimed ringing a bell. “That’s exactly what being a mother is — love and terror, most of the time simultaneously.” Shifra looked away. I watched her profile closely. She looked up, swallowed, and seemed to pick her words slowly.
“But what if I’m just not the Mommy type? I’m thinking of how everything will change, the person I’ll be, the person I’ll be responsible for… it scares me to death.”
I nodded and waited for her to continue.
“I waited so long to get married, and it’s amazing, but it still threw me for a complete loop. It’s that all over again.”
“You just said marriage is amazing. Why won’t mothering be? C’mon, Shifra PR lady, I know you can twist it and sell it back to yourself.”
Shifra chewed her lip.
“All these years, I looked at my friends raising their families and dreamed of my own. But then I’d look at my relationship with my mother, and it kinda fell flat. Do you know what I mean?”
Thank G-d I didn’t know, but I understood what she was saying. I’d met Shifra’s mother, she can be… challenging.
“Shifra.” I commanded. She looked at me briefly, then averted her eyes. “Shifra,” I said again. She met my gaze.
“You are not your mother, and Ari is not your father. You are Shifra, queen of the world, and Ari’s the nicest and tallest guy ever.” Her eyes softened when I said Ari’s name. So sweet. She seemed like she was taking it. I needed to finish strong.
“Shifra, my Leah used to keep a list of all the things she was going to do differently in her house. Supper on time, laundry folded, all the stuff I’m not so good at.”
“I know you.” I pointed a finger at her. “You have your own list. And besides toilet trained by six months and reading by age two, all those things will happen because you care about them, because you’re determined, and because you’re a doer.”
Shifra’s head was lowered; when she raised it, all I saw were her eyes.
“You really think so?” Her voice was skeptical but her eyes were pleading.
“I’m a terrible housekeeper,” I answered Shifra. “I’m also a terrible liar.”
Shifra smiled a little, then flicked her hand. “Thanks, Chana. I needed to hear that.” She shifted her posture. “Tell me more about being a rebbetzin.”
Oh, Shifra, right back to perfect. I mentally shook my head. I need to keep an eye on you.
The JCC reading room thrummed with energy, and I set “I Don’t Want to Eat My Dinner” back in the display frame. I’d finished reading it a half hour before and then led a discussion on stubbornness with the ten women assembled.
We were all sitting on the tiny chairs intended for our children. The kids had absconded to a corner of the room and were playing with the library’s Duplo.
“This reminds me a little bit of the discussion I had with the women in my shul after I read a book to them,” I said. “We were talking about our relationships and how we perceived them, particularly our relationship with G-d. Now that I’m thinking about it, the idea of stubborn patterns really fits in well with those ideas.”
The women seemed to have only heard the first part of what I had said.
“You do this with the women in your shul?” Debby, who was wearing a full sheitel today, not her band fall, asked.
“Sorta,” I started to explain. “I actually got the idea from doing it with you guys.”
“That’s so cool.” Vered, in jeans, said.
“When are you doing this next? We must come,” Dahlia insisted.
I shrugged. “In two days.”
“Give me all the info, Chana,” Dahlia said, then looked to the women around her. “I’m making a chat, if you want the deets, give me your number so I can add you.”
At least seven women scrambled to give Dahlia their numbers. To say I was shocked would be an understatement.
“What’s your number?” Dahlia finally asked me.
I gave it to her. “But I have a dumbphone,” I added, holding it up. The women chuckled.
“Do you at least text?” Dahlia asked.
“That much I can do. But it’s T9 all the way.”
The women laughed.
“So you text me, and I’ll text the group and vice versa.” Dahlia said. Everyone nodded. And like that, we were a group.
Yehudis was going to kill me.
“It was crazy, Avrumi,” I recounted to him later, while we ate a late supper of Sloppy Joes. “All these normal women want to hear me read kids’ books and talk about them.”
“Why are you so surprised? People always loved you. You’re a people person.” He took a bite of pasta.
“So it came up that I speak sometimes, and now they all want to come to one of my speeches.”
Avrumi’s fork stopped midway to his mouth.
“And what did you tell them?”
“To come, of course. Why not?”
Avrumi put his fork down and rubbed his eyes in that exasperated-parent way. “You can’t do that, Chana.”
I opened my palms to him, wordlessly asking: Why?
“Chana, you’re speaking under the shul Neshei’s auspices. It’s for shul members, it’s not for the world. And you don’t even know these women, are they women you want to be bringing into the shul?”
I looked at Avrumi. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I felt the corner of my lip curl in horror. “You sound like Yehudis Schloss. Since when are you so elitist? And since when is the Neshei paying me that they can close the doors to a Torah discussion?”
“Torah? I thought you’re reading kids’ books.”
I gave Avrumi another look, then switched to a smile.
“I invited them, we’ll see if they come, and we’ll work from there.”
Avrumi shook his head. “I suppose it’s too late and too rude to rescind an invitation now.” A frown chased across his face. “I just wish you’d—” He stopped.
“Think before I speak?” I offered brightly. “Na, being a blitherer is my shining quality. Besides, I still think it’s fine.”
Avrumi picked up his fork again. I can be incorrigible sometimes.
But I’m also right sometimes.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 696)
Oops! We could not locate your form.