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Picture This: Chapter 12

The more she spoke, the quieter Dovid got, until she could hear the clink of his mug on the table between sentences


It’s a nice thing, Golda thought, stroking the oak table, to know your purchase paid off, thirty years after the fact.

Josh Barber had told them they wouldn’t regret buying the table; that it would last them for decades. Decades had seemed deliciously laughable at the time, surrounded by the invincible glow of youth. Golda closed her eyes; she could see the ghosts of thousands of Shabbos seudos, Pesach Sedorim, birthday dinners, floating around the room.

“Exhausted, huh?” Dovid said.

She opened her eyes, smiled sheepishly. “Just thinking about this table, actually.”

Dovid flashed a grin. “Was a solid buy. Wish we could tell good ol’ Josh how much we enjoy it.”

“His neshamah should have an aliyah,” Golda murmured.

“We’ll take it with us,” Dovid said.

“Take it where?”

Dovid spread his hands. “Wherever it is you want us to go. I’m ready, Golda. You know me, I love our home and I love the life we’ve created here, but it’s all because of you.

“|You’ve been behind me every step of the way; you followed me to Boston when your heart was in Chicago with your family. If your heart is taking you somewhere else now, I’m on board. I’m not promising I won’t kvetch”—he flashed his grin again—“but I’ll do my best to behave.”

“The table is too big,” she said softly. “It can’t come with us.”

He shrugged. “It’s just a table. Someone else will enjoy it.”

And even when his voice cracked, he didn’t break eye contact with his wife of 42 years.

IT was only the next morning, while she was making the week’s soup — according to their bikur cholim guests, it had healing powers — that the conversation started getting technical. Who, where, what, when. Who to tell, where to go, what will be with all of their projects? When to tell the kids?

She was overflowing with ideas and dreams and thoughts, but the more she spoke, the quieter Dovid got, until she could hear the clink of his mug on the table between sentences.

Rein it in, she told herself. Rein it in, or you’ll overwhelm him.

She petered out and stirred the soup in silence.

“Maybe,” Dovid said slowly, standing up and rolling his bad shoulder, “maybe one of the kids can take over here.”

Golda looked at him, mouth opened slightly. “Maybe,” she said quickly.

Doubtful, she thought to herself. But why burst his bubble when there were bubbles popping all around him?

“Shabbos was really nice,” Yonah said lazily, watching Estee scramble the eggs just the way he liked them.

Life was good. They’d had a beautiful Shabbos at his parents, driven back at record speed that had Estee mumbling pirkei Tehillim occasionally, and were tucked safely into their beds only a little past 2 a.m.

Now he was having the Sundayest of Sundays, davening at the minyan factory at 9, and enjoying a luxurious breakfast, home-cooked by his amazing wife.

She smiled. “It really was. I love Gita, she’s great.”

Yonah laughed. “As a sister-in-law, yeah. As a sister, she was a bully. She once told me that the painting of a blue glove on Aryeh’s wall came alive at night, and for weeks after, I’d lie in bed, shaking, imagining a blue hand floating in to strangle me.”

Estee looked so horrified he felt obligated to stick up for Gita.

“Listen, it wasn’t easy for her with only brothers. She had to mark her territory somehow.”

She looked slightly less traumatized after that. Good. Sometimes he forgot how sensitive she is.


Estee placed a blue ceramic plate in front of him; the eggs had tomato eyes, and there was a big chunk of sourdough bread on the side slathered in butter. It might have been the best-looking food he’d ever seen, and they’d dated at Noi Due Carne.

“This looks amazing,” he said, getting up to wash. They chewed in companionable silence, and then his phone rang.

“Who’s calling this early?” he asked genuinely surprised.

Estee looked at him. “It’s 11:45.”

Oh. He laughed sheepishly and picked up the phone. “Hi?”

“Hi, Yonah, it’s Wagshall here.”

“Oh! Rabbi Wagshall, how are you?”

“Great, baruch Hashem. I’m actually calling about a bowling emergency.”

Yonah snickered. “I hate when I have bowling emergencies.”

“Right? Me, too. That’s why I’m calling. How do you feel about chaperoning the tenth-grade group today at Strikes and Slurps? At around 5?”

Yonah chewed a mouthful of egg slowly. “Hmmm, let me just check with the boss. I’ll call you back.”

“Who was that?” Estee asked, taking a long sip of orange juice.

“Rabbi Wagshall. He wants me to chaperone the boys at the bowling alley today.”

He tried to play it cool, but honestly, he was excited. This felt good. Being wanted because he was geshmak and young was a new feeling. Most of his life, he’d been sought after for being a metzuyan. Which was nice, but a completely different flavor.

“What time would you need to go?”

He blushed. Should he lie? He can’t lie.

He doesn’t lie. “Five o’clock.”

He saw her struggle, saw the emotions flash across her face, like she couldn’t decide what her lines should be. Finally, she stood up, holding her plate.

“Did you tell him,” she asked, voice shaking, “that at five o’clock you are sitting in the beis medrash for second seder?”

He also stood up. “No,” he said flatly. “And I won’t be. I’ll be at Strikes and Slurps, actually.”

And then he walked out of the kitchen to call Rabbi Wagshall back.

She hadn’t wanted to go out for coffee with Ayala even before Yonah had stalked out of the kitchen. But now that he’d acted like such a baby, she definitely didn’t want to entertain his best friend’s wife. But they’d already planned it last week, and she wasn’t going to ditch Ayala on account of Yonah’s irresponsibility.

She settled into her chair at Cookie Corner and tried to ignore her rumbling stomach. Yonah had put her off of her eggs and now she was starving. Would it be socially off for her to be halfway through a plate of pancakes when Ayala arrived?


She looked up — phew, Ayala had arrived before she’d had a chance to daydream about eating the menu.

“Ayala!” she exclaimed. “Omigosh, so good to see you!”

Ayala glowed. Like actually glowed — was that a diamond choker?

Did she know that Pinny was wealthy? How much kollel savings did one need to purchase a diamond choker? Maybe if they never had chicken again….

She stole another glance at the halo around Ayala’s neck. It might be worth it.

“You look amazing,” she said.

Ayala smiled brightly. “Thaaaanks! So do you! Hello, look at us, two married ladies meeting for coffee on a Sunday!”

Estee laughed. “I know, I feel weirdly old and also like I’m playing hooky from school.”

Ayala cracked up. Estee felt herself relax. Ayala was fun. She knew she’d liked her. They’d only met at simchahs — l’chayim, vort, wedding, sheva brachos — but still. She’d gotten a good feeling about her.

“…and then, of course Pinny forgot to order the Uber.” She tuned back into Ayala’s story.

“Oh, gosh, wow.”

“I know.” Ayala’s eyes hardened. “He literally had one job. And obviously, he messed up. But whatever, I called my father, and he zoomed over to pick us up. And boy, did he give it to Pinny. Okay, we both did, ha, but I mean, we were stranded!”

Estee blinked, trying to regain her footing in the story. Did Ayala just say she and her father had yelled at Pinny together? Nah, it was the starvation talking.

“I’m going to order something to eat,” she said, waving the menu. “How ’bout you?”

Ayala nodded. “Totally. Want to share a waffle?”

Estee groaned. “Omigosh, yes please.”

They giggled. “Anything we don’t have to make ourselves becomes extra amazing, no?” Estee said, after they received their coffees.

Ayala shrugged. “I guess. I mean, I told Pinny he’s on supper duty. I have enough to do with the cleaning and laundry and lunches, and let’s face it, it’s not like he’s big stuff in the beis. I think it’s fine if he does his share.”

And Estee would have responded, except she’d been rendered absolutely speechless.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1019)

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