“You think it’s just in the city? It’s everywhere. Daven, daven, and daven”
ll day long — and all Shabbos, too, Hannah has been trying to orchestrate time alone with Shneur: without Felix, who has been following his uncle around like a puppy; without Ernst, who keeps looking at her thoughtfully; without even Becca.
After Havdalah, just before they leave to the theater — for Ernst has decided that they must all come and hear Vivaldi, and even Shneur expressed interest in joining them — while everyone is pinning hair and adjusting cravats, she finds Shneur alone. He was sitting at the dining room table, gently swaying over a sefer, but when she asks him to step into the kitchen, he kisses the sefer lightly, and heaves himself up.
In the kitchen, Hannah gives him an uncertain smile. Is she being disloyal, talking to her brother about private, family matters? But somehow, this feels more loyal than writing it all in a long letter. Spoken words are just air, after all.
“About Emmy,” she begins.
Shneur holds up both hands as if to stave off what will come. “I know nothing of girls.”
Too easy, Shneur, she thinks. She says, “We all know nothing of everything. If we knew, we wouldn’t need to seek advice.”
His sigh seems to deflate his huge chest. “Go on then.”
How can she put it? Frivolous? Demanding? Hostile? Empty?
The copper saucepans that hang on the wall are disarranged. Instead of progressing from small to large, they have been replaced at random. She itches to take them off, rearrange them, but Dr. Werther would tell her that that is a display of avoidance.
She looks away from the pots.
“I am afraid she is not going on a good path.”
Shneur nods, his dark brown eyes wide with sympathy. “You think it’s just in the city? It’s everywhere. Daven, daven, and daven,” he declares.
Hannah nods impatiently. She wants him to listen. To think and then respond. His answer is too facile.
“I… I wanted her to become a teacher, or a nurse, to give some meaning to her day.”
Ernst would be so hurt by her words. It is as if she is implying that their lifestyle is frivolous and trivial and carries no weight.
When she does not speak, he says, “That is not done around here, is it? A girl, with a job.”
Hannah shakes her head. “But the world is changing. Things are not as rigid as they used to be.”
He combs his fingers through his large brown beard, graying now at the tips. “Emmy will grow up, Hannah. She will face challenges, hard times, misfortune, even — there is no way we can prevent that, even though as parents, we would love to. And from that she will develop into a woman of substance.”
Hannah closes her eyes for a moment. Again, he has chosen the easy answer. She walks to the kitchen window and looks out toward the yard, the thicket of houses and apartments that spread out through the neighborhood, through the city.
“Some people face hardship and grow from it. But others run away, or they distract themselves by the peacock feathers they procure for their hats, the ruffles that they sew onto their sleeves, the embossed calling cards.” She turns and looks at her brother.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 676)
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