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Picture This: Chapter 2 

Why did it seem like everyone else in the world was living up married life, and Estee was… vacuuming?



here were pillows everywhere. On every bed, couch, and armchair. But why?

Yonah tossed a pillow off of the Lazy Boy, a plaid rectangle thing, and watched with no small amount of satisfaction as it landed squarely on the couch. It was a good shot.

Estee came in, balancing a puzzle box, a bowl of popcorn, and two Diet Cokes.

“How are you going to do a puzzle from the recliner?” she asked, one eyebrow raised.

It was a good point.

With an exaggerated groan, he slid to the floor next to the coffee table and tried not to think about what he would be doing at night seder right now.

Not that he wasn’t loving his second week of shanah rishonah; he absolutely was. It was just an interesting matzav, being the first of your friends to get married. Estee was in almost the same boat, the second of her tight group of friends.  Estee was only 20 while he was the ripe old age of 21.

Just Ask, and all that.

They’d asked, he’d answered, and now here he was, trying to find the end pieces for the yellow cat.

Estee grinned at him. “Ten Monopoly dollars for your thoughts.”

“Monopoly dollars?”

She nodded primly. “We are officially a kollel couple. Sheva brachos is over, let the budgeting begin.”

They laughed, and Yonah held up his Coke in celebration. “Bring it on, I am nothing if not frugal.”

Estee held up her Coke as well and then put it down with a thud. “Okay, enough fooling around, these cats aren’t going to build themselves.”

Guess you can’t have everything, he sighed inwardly. Pasting on a big smile, he got to work, relieved that Estee had forgotten to follow up on why he was lost in thought.

She tried to stuff down her snort as she ran the vacuum cleaner back and forth over the rug, sucking up popcorn kernels. Nothing, if not frugal… ha, didn’t she know it. He’d learned from the best, of course. His mother reused plastic cups. Seriously. And throwing out food in the Rosen household was a cardinal sin.

Which was fine, of course, it takes all sorts and all that. But the truth was, she was nervous about kollel life. Her father was kovei’a itim, of course, but he worked in credit card processing, while her mother was a homemaker. And neither of them was into budgeting. They didn’t have to be.

She closed her eyes, steadied herself. She was exactly where she wanted to be. In her little basement apartment in Lakewood, miraculously a 13-minute walk from the beis, and a seven-minute drive to the school where she was a secretary.

Her phone beeped. She squinted at the tiny screen.

Picking me up in ten minutes and I literally just got home.

She grinned. Her best friend Tehila was giving the guy from Cleveland another chance. Her exact words had been, “If Estee Lefkowitz can marry out of town, so can I.”

Estee was glad she could be an inspiring role model.

So stop texting me and get dressed.

She dropped the vacuum and plopped onto the couch with a sigh. She hated the half hour when Yonah was at Maariv; the apartment felt so empty.

Her phone beeped again. This time it was Shani. Shani of the “Don’t even talk to me about shidduchim until after Pesach” attitude, although that might have something to do with the Kleins’ financial status rather than Shani’s love of being a kindergarten teacher.

Guess who just took a spontaneous trip to Vermont for some mid-zeman skiing?

Estee gasped. No. Not Rikki Teiger?

That’s Rikki Parnes now, my friend.

Of course. Perfect Rikki Teiger, high school valedictorian, seminary valedictorian, married into the wealthiest Jewish family around. Jetting off to skiing, or flying off to jetski, or whatever it was.

Why did it seem like everyone else in the world was living up married life, and Estee was… vacuuming?

She made her way to the kitchen. Well, kitchenette, really. It was tiny. She’d spruced it up, of course — there were flowers on the miniscule table and a beautiful cream-colored wall clock, but otherwise, her kitchen didn’t exactly call out to her.

Cracking open her brand-new copy of Dinner Done, she pulled her magnetic notepad off the fridge and grabbed the pink marker. Perfect. She wrote out the days of the week, and then created a corresponding shopping trip.

Was it a cop-out to make one-pan dinners? It’s not like she was actually doing carpool or anything, although honestly, she had no idea how she was going to juggle everything.

And surprisingly, tears welled up in her eyes. She was overwhelmed, that was all.

But she got this. She was fine.

Totally fine. But she still reached for her phone.

Ma would have a great menu system. And when she’d spoken to her at lunchtime about salting eggplant, Ma had mentioned that she’d be baking tonight. It was the perfect time to call.

Mishkan Avigdor was gorgeous. Raised ceilings, wood paneling, cushioned seats, stocked coffee room. It was the shul that had everything. Except, you know, a rav.

“It’s fiiiine,” Chezky Trenk soothed him. “Mendy Wagner built the place l’illui nishmas his brother, and it’s a tight ship. Minyanim ’round the clock, there are speakers, and even Melaveh Malkahs.”

Yonah rubbed his forehead. He was five years old in these guys’ books, married for six minutes. But where he came from, a shul came together when there was a rav.

He subconsciously hummed Abie Rotenberg’s middos song.

Like a bird without its wings,

Or a bell that doesn’t ring

Like a plane without a pilot,

Or a heart that does not beat.

A shul without a rabbi

Is simply incomplete.

He smirked to himself.

No rav, but they do have a theme song.

HE walked in, humming the “Marvelous Middos Machine.”

She loved that about him, he was always singing and laughing.

Sending an upward prayer that her eyes weren’t still red, she placed a platter of brownies on the table and perched on a chair, waiting for him to join her.

“Yum! Est, you’re spoiling me.”

She wrinkled her nose. “That’s what I’m here for. How was Maariv?”

He bit into a brownie, a crumb trembling on his lip. “It was great. Met some buddies. Schmoozed. Reminded me of my bochurim days.”

Estee cracked up. “You mean last week?”

He laughed with her. “Uh, yeah.”

She watched the crumb. Should she tell him? Nah, she didn’t want him to feel bad.

He suddenly slammed his hand on the table. “Est! Great idea! We should host one meal on Shabbos! All the guys. They would go crazy over your food.”

Her mouth dropped open in shock.

The crumb loosened and fell off.


To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1009)

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