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Picture This: Chapter 5

“That’s okay,” Estee interrupted him. “I’m not going to schmooze in the den. I’m going to head back upstairs, rest, and daven in the room.” Yonah raised his eyebrows. “Oh. You sure?”


AT their second sheva brachos, the one that Estee’s mother’s best friends had made in the party room at a fancy restaurant, Estee’s uncle Elisha had emceed. His little snippets between each speech — and there had been a lot of them — were more memorable than the speeches themselves.

One, in particular, was playing through Yonah Rosen’s mind as he drove like an insane person down the highway, his wife sitting in huffy silence next to him.

“If you’re good at life,” Elisha had said, raising a half-full glass, “then you’ll be good at marriage. That’s it. So Yonah and Estee, we’re not that worried about you. At least, I’m not. My sister, on the other hand…”

And everyone had laughed as Estee’s mother made an “oh, stop,” gesture at her little brother. Apparently, it was no secret that the kallah’s mother had suffered worse pre-wedding jitters than the kallah herself.

But as Yonah sped down the turnpike, he kind of blamed Elisha for his melancholy mood right now. Yonah Rosen was good at life. Always had been.

So why, exactly, was his wife not speaking to him right now? And why did they leave for Boston an hour and a half later than planned? He was Yonah Rosen, time manager extraordinaire.

Of course, in all of his extraordinariness in his bochur days, he’d never had to take into account locating his Shabbos tallis, taking out the garbage, burning his hand on his wife’s curling iron (why did it look exactly the same both when it was on and off?), and slicing fruits and vegetables for the trip (chips and cookies were so much faster.)

Okay, and he had been up late, reading. But still. He hadn’t gone to bed before midnight once in all his dirah days. And now here they were, hours late on a Friday.

“Next time,” Yonah said through gritted teeth, “we’re driving up Thursday night and I’ll do Friday seder over the phone.”

“Or,” Estee said, her voice thin, “you could just keep track of your things and then we won’t be running all over like crazy people, looking for them, when we should be on our way already.”

Yonah bit his tongue hard and looked at the throbbing blister on his thumb. That’s when he remembered another gem from Uncle Elisha. “Most of the time, shetikah is the only answer. Employ it. Like, a lot.”

“I’m writing these down,” his wife Chani had called out at that point, and everyone had cracked up.

This one’s for you, Elisha, Yonah thought grimly. This one’s for you.

She felt like crying. Which was nothing new, tears had always been a quick release for Estee, but this time, there was a deep sadness that threatened to choke her.

They had driven to Boston twice during their engagement, and both drives had been some of the best times of Estee’s life. They’d joked, schmoozed, and sometimes just driven in companionable silence.

They’d played the Marvelous Middos Machine, with Yonah singing along at the top of his lungs, and there’d been one memorable moment when Estee had turned to him and said “You are right, Shlumpy,” in the tremulous Dr. Middos voice. He had been stunned into silence and then they both laughed until they cried.

Now, the car was silent, he was speeding, and she was trying not to feel like the party was over before it had begun. And then, of course, there was the real elephant in the car. The fact that her masmid of a husband had stayed up until two in the morning reading some stupid historical book on the Civil War.

Wasn’t the whole no night seder thing so that they could spend time with each other? And hadn’t Yonah made it very clear, when she’d admitted on their Central Park date to reading the first Harry Potter ten times, that he didn’t have time to read?

Whatever. She knew she wasn’t her husband’s mashgiach, but still. If they didn’t have a normal amount of time to get ready at his mother’s house, she was not going to handle.

Here they were. About to spend their first married Shabbos with his family. Why did that make Estee more apprehensive than getting engaged?

Of course, his mother had gone all out. You know, in Boston style. She was definitely the hostess with the mostest. Estee duly admired the elaborate lunch spread out on the kitchen table, nibbled on some fruit, drank some orange juice, and then, when Golda Rosen had turned to answer the phone, made urgent eyes at Yonah.

He yawned loudly. “Gosh, so tired. Ma, okay if I chap a quick Erev Shabbos nap?”

His mother smiled. “Of course. I made up the suite for you. Blimi and Eli said they’ll be mevater just for shanah rishonah.”

Yonah laughed, while wondering how he was going to explain to his older sister that Estee was not going to agree to stay in one of the childhood bedrooms upstairs ever, shanah rishonah or no shanah rishonah.

Later, Yonah walked her to the dining room where his mother lit candles. “I told Ma I was setting up your candles. Didn’t want to give up on my Friday zechus.”

Estee smiled at him. That was really sweet.

“You’ll be okay socializing ’til I get back from shul?”

She wrinkled her nose. “And why wouldn’t I be? I’m not sure you heard, but I happen to be delightful.”

He cracked up. “You don’t need to tell me twice. ’Kay, so when you’re done, Ma heads to the den after lighting to schmooze and read and daven until the guys get back. The den is across from the—”

“That’s okay,” Estee interrupted him. “I’m not going to schmooze in the den. I’m going to head back upstairs, rest, and daven in the room.”

Yonah raised his eyebrows. “Oh. You sure?”

She smiled sunnily. “Positive. See you later!”

It was a beautiful Shabbos.

Yonah came to get her for the meal and they descended the steps together regally, perfectly in sync. Estee blushed at the compliments from her mother-in-law and older sister-in-law, and sat at Yonah’s side, laughing at his jokes, whispering to him that his devar Torah was beautiful, and altogether feeling like all the wrongs in the world had been righted.

But after the meal, when her father and brother-in-law had disappeared with seforim, Yonah had plopped onto the couch next to her.

“Walk?” he’d asked, dimpling.

She’d smiled back bemused. Didn’t he want to learn? She’d shrugged and joined him, but hadn’t felt much like schmoozing as he waved at childhood friends and sat in a swing like an overgrown three-year-old.

Oh, and who had they spotted while out for Motzaei Shabbos ice cream? Rikki Parnes, of all people.

Of course, her former classmate looked blissfully happy as she laughed over something her husband said, positively glowing. What they were doing in Boston of all places, Estee had no idea, but hey, when money’s no object, why not see the world?

Estee had slunk back and motioned Yonah toward a table out of sight.

She was the first to admit it, she was cranky. She understood that Yonah needed to spend time with his family, but traveling was exhausting,

Whatever, she was pushing through, with the help of a giant iced latte.

It was a busy day; someone had slipped on a puddle, and chaos reigned.

Estee slipped out of her seat, helped the crying girl to the nurse, dispatched a janitor to the ninth grade hallway to clean up the spill, handed Mrs. Zellman her science review sheets with one hand while answering the phone with the other to assure Mrs. Yudkowitz that there was bus service, even if it was Flag Day.

“You are gooood,” Toby said admiringly.

She blushed and pretended to fan herself, before settling in her seat. She was good. She was also bored out of her mind.

Clicking on her emails, she found a notification from her photography Slack group. It had just been a hobby for the summer of eleventh grade, but the group had all stayed in touch, sharing great shots and life developments.

Check out this guy’s work!!! Dassa Levine has posted. There was a link. Curiosity piqued, Estee clicked on it. Oh, wooooow. He was talented. Ephraim Polotnik. She clicked on the price list and almost fell over. That couldn’t be right… was that right?

Apparently, it was.

Well then, she was in the wrong business. If she wanted her husband to sit in kollel b’menuchas hanefesh, she needed to stop the desk job and become a whole lot better at photography. Like, right now.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1012)

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