| Teen Fiction |

Party Woes

How can my secret remain mine, and mine alone, if it will soon be revealed for all to see at my bas mitzvah party?

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s I doodled on a piece of lined paper torn out of a notebook, I had, without even realizing it, sketched a picture of a party, complete with streamers and banners and party decorations.

And the food!

Nosh and cakes and rolls and spreads. Fruit of every flavor and color. Chocolate cake and vanilla cake. But the centerpiece was the best of all — a big, seven-layer birthday cake with the words “Mazel Tov, Rochel” emblazoned on the top in pink icing.

Suddenly, the paper fluttered to the ground as I heard the heavy footfall of my teacher from behind. The heady scent of her perfume washed over me and I almost gagged as she bent over and hissed into my ear, “Where is that note you were passing?” I pointed a trembling finger at the floor and she bent down and picked up my drawing. She held it high above her head like a victory flag. Heedless of my arguments that it was only a sketch, she placed her long, spindly fingers on each side of the paper and began to tear it.

Rip, rip. The sound echoed in my ears, bounced around my brain.

Rip, rip. She ripped my dreams into a million pieces, and they scattered, along with the tiny shreds of paper.


I lay face down on my bed, contemplating my day. It had been a pretty bad one — no, make that a terrible one — from early in the morning (five a.m. to be precise, when I had woken up and couldn’t fall back asleep) right up until I had climbed, exhausted, into my comfy bed. An indefinable feeling — was it despondency? Frustration? Aggravation? — washed over me, ensconcing me in its pincer-like grasp.

I was not usually so melodramatic. I was a happy-go-lucky type of person who overcame all obstacles in life with equanimity. But just then I was exceedingly distressed. I had an awfully big problem, occupying the front of my mind and taking over my thoughts.

What was I to do?


“Rochel,” a friend called to me across the classroom as 23 pairs of ears

unconsciously pricked up to better hear the ensuing conversation, “Want to go for pizza with me today?”

“Ummm…” I stammered, not sure what to say. I would have loved to go, but finances in my house were tight. But that’s just a polite way of saying that my family was poor.

And that was the underlying reason for all my problems.

It was the reason I couldn’t go to the mall every Sunday afternoon; it was the reason I couldn’t ever treat my friends to ice cream at the new ice cream shop that had just opened on the corner.

And it was the reason I couldn’t go out for pizza just then.

But my friend was still waiting for my answer.

“I… I…” I thought fast. “I can’t go. Sorry. Need to study for the geography quiz tomorrow.”

My friend looked at me quizzically.

“Since when do you, Brain Box Incorporated, study for a silly little geography quiz?””

“Uhhh… I really want to get a good mark this time. Like, maybe even 100%.”

Having barely managed a weak smile, I stumbled to my desk, tears clouding my vision. This exchange had to happen when my whole class was listening in?! I had almost given my secret away!

The secret that my father had lost his job, that he was staying home each morning, searching desperately through the newspapers — searching, desperately searching for a job.

But it is my secret and it will always stay close to my heart. No one will ever know.

Or will they?

How can my secret remain mine, and mine alone, if it will soon be revealed for all to see at my bas mitzvah party?

All my friends had hosted large, extravagant parties complete with delicious, catered milchig fare and an enormous birthday cake, courtesy of Innovate & Co., but mine would feature homemade, plain and simple, pareve food. Can you imagine such embarrassment? Pareve?!

Won’t my secret be revealed then, displayed on the table for all to see? Won’t everyone recognize our desperate financial straits, something I have tried so hard, for so long, to conceal?

Won’t they?!


The big day finally arrived.

Was I being overly dramatic and babyish? I didn’t know. But I did know that fear and excitement were battling, waging a fierce war in my heart. Fear of what my friends would say; excitement that I was finally becoming a Bas Mitzvah.

Excitement won, and I carefully tread the stairs, mindful of my organza skirt which snagged easily. The voices of my excited and exuberant friends wafted up to me, and I hurried down the remaining stairs, forgetting about my skirt. As soon as I stepped into the room, they started cheering, and afterwards burst into a rousing rendition of “Siman Tov U’mazel Tov,” though slightly off-key. I picked my way through the myriad chairs scattered throughout the room and seated myself at the head table. The party seemed to be off to a great start, baruch Hashem. I sighed in contentment, in relief.

Although nothing was as fancy-shmancy as the other parties of my classmates that I had attended, and there was not one creamy, milchig food item to be found (my mother had said milchig was just too expensive) the girls were really enjoying themselves.

And so was I.

After everyone had eaten their share, I led the girls to a corner of the room where I had taken great care to set up a few games that I thought everyone would enjoy. I had agonized long and hard when deciding which games to play; I wanted everybody to have fun!

Two hours and four games later, I realized that, surprisingly enough, my plan had worked out amazingly! The party was starting to die down and as the girls began to leave, shouts could be heard from all over the room,

“The party was amazing!”

“The food was yum!”

“Awesome games!””

“Yeah, I don’t know how you thought of them!”

“You know, it was a real treat to have homemade food. Much better than the catered food at my party.”

I was in shock. Total. Utter. Complete. Shock. Homemade?! She liked the homemade food?! More than the store-bought seven-layer cream cake topped with chocolate and candies that she had at her party?!


I could barely wrap my head around the fact that the wealthiest girl in my class preferred my party over hers!

But the nicest comment came from a very quiet girl who walked over to me after I thought everyone had left and said, “You know, this was the only bas mitzvah party so far that I was able to eat at. I’m allergic to dairy.”

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 754)

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Tagged: Teen Fiction