“Not all of us will find husbands to install us into beautiful houses, gowns, lives, children”
ecca looks down at the printed paper in her hand. Three warm blankets.
She looks around. When she had left Paris, the dorm mother had given her a warm blanket as a gift. She has one of her own, from home. Can she manage with two? Surely Turkey is warm.
But then, there is nothing worse than being cold at night. Perhaps she should ask Hannah for a blanket. Though she doesn’t like to ask for anything.
She opens the trunk, places the two blankets inside, and then her boots.
Before Becca left to Paris four years earlier, Mama gave her Shneur’s old boots. “Let no one say that your family can’t afford good shoes,” she said, dumping them on the kitchen table.
The boots were dark brown, fading to light-brown around the toes. They were Shneur’s size, and Shneur was a big man. They would be what, four, five sizes too big? The sole was reinforced with a metal piece on the heel.
As Mama put them on the table, a small piece of earth dislodged from the sole. Becca tried not to wince as she swept it off the table.
“These will last for years. Through mud and rain and hail and anything else that heaven may send down to you,” Mama had declared.
“Why, thank you,” Becca had said gaily. She had put the boots onto her feet, pulled the laces tight, and leaned back onto her heels; heard the satisfying click against the wooden floorboards.
In Paris, she had found a job doing laundry after her studies, and franc by franc, had saved up for a pair of shoes: dainty-soled slippers she could wear without shame. Mindful not to ruin them, she would walk to social engagements in Shneur’s boots, and then find a nearby bush in which to hide them. She’d change into her silk heels and trot gaily into the dinner party.
Next on her list: Five white handkerchiefs. Easy enough. Becca holds a fistful of white when the door opens. Emmy walks in, glances at the trunk and at Becca, and wrinkles her nose.
“You do not like the idea of me leaving? An aunt in Turkey is not the same as an aunt in Paris. It must have been nice to shvitz about an aunt in Paris. Although take away the fashion element and an aunt in Turkey has the elements of a good novel: intrepid adventurer leaves friends and family and ventures into the unknown.”
Emmy laughs. “Not for shvitzing. For caring.”
Becca widens her eyes in mock amazement. Still, inside something warms. There is something of Hannah in Emmy, after all.
“Well, not all of us will find husbands to install us into beautiful houses, gowns, lives, children.”
“Are you jealous?”
“Yes. No. Perhaps.”
“Because Felix says that the only certain thing in our lives is the uncertainty.”
Becca leans over, taps the wall, the desk, the lid of the wooden trunk. “Life in Prague seems a picture of stability. Oh, perhaps it just seems that way.”
“Oh, it seems that way to me, too. But my grandparents don’t think so. Neither does Felix.”
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 677)
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