"Heshy will be doing who-knows-what in my basement, learning karate or bee-keeping, and Chaim will assure me that it’s perfect, it’s his way, and I should just be tolerant”
Two weeks earlier, Shaindy Brucker had shared a little bit too much information and now she was trying to walk it back.
The other women had married children and it was okay to be honest sometimes, right? It wasn’t all pictures of the eineklach and “I love babysitting, I wait for it all week,” and “every einekel is my favorite.”
It was the day after Heshy had called her to confirm that he and Gitty would be arriving just after Succos, managing to use words “temporary” and “short-term” and “just till we get our bearings,” in the first three sentences.
Realizing it was a done deal, she’d risen to the occasion and said, “Of course, that’s what parents are for,” and “Baruch Hashem, we have the space and time at this point in our lives,” but in her mind, she was remembering how much Chaim had admired their mechutan, Shaya Veisfish, and his easy confidence. The dirah was on him — however he took care of his other children, he would take care of Heshy and Gitty. A Yid has no business making calculations, let’s drink l’chayim, mazel tov.
And now, it turned out, Mr. No Calculations had kissed his children goodbye and wished them well in America, where the other side would pitch in a little bit. He had probably gone home and grinned at his wife and said, “See, Baila, didn’t we say the Ribbono shel Olam doesn’t need our eitzos?”
So the next morning, when she’d been walking with her neighbors, she’d vented a little bit. They got it. They also had mechutanim who’d over-promised. But what she regretted was being a bit too open about Chaim’s relationship with Heshy.
“My husband is all about learning,” she’d told the other women. “He sees every minute as an opportunity to learn more Torah, and the other kids all more or less live that way, but Heshy was always more jumpy, he didn’t sit much. Chaim isn’t a confrontational person, you know, so his way of dealing with it is almost to deny it — he doesn’t lose sleep over it, he just decided that Heshy is different from him and zehu, end of story. And now, here they come, and Heshy will be doing who-knows-what in my basement, learning karate or bee-keeping, and Chaim will assure me that it’s perfect, it’s his way, and I should just be tolerant.”
“It’s always the wife who ends up dealing with the issues,” Rina Putterman had agreed. “The men like to be accepting because it’s easier than dealing with a problem, so we have to deal with it. My husband is against waking up the bochurim in the morning during bein hazmanim. He says they had a long, hard zeman and let them sleep, fine. But then if he comes home from shul and they’re still in bed, he’s really tense and I feel like he’s judging me for not getting them up. But how can I get them up if he tells me to go easy?”
“Yes!” Shaindy had stopped walking to smile appreciatively. “Waking Heshy up was always a parshah! All the boys, really.”
Nechama Stagler had said nothing. In Queens, probably, the last minyan was eight o’clock in the morning, so there was no choice, Shaindy thought.
But now, as she stood outside her house waiting for Chaim to come back from Newark Airport with the kids, she noticed Nechama Stagler and decided it was time to set the record straight.
“Chaim insisted on going to the airport, of course,” she said. “He cleaned out the car and left early, he’s also been so attuned to Heshy, always. They get each other. Heshy is at a crossroads now, like I told you, and I feel like he just wants to be around Chaim for a bit. Chaim is like his rebbi, you know?”
She was blabbing and she knew it, but it was important that Nechama Stagler came home with her facts down pat. Chaim Brucker was not just a talmid chacham, he was understanding and patient, with real insight into people. He would be the perfect rav.
The baby — who looked a bit too much like Shaya Veisfish, if you asked Shaindy, but why ruin the moment — made the first few hours exciting and pleasant. Shaindy felt very motherly as she showed Gitty the teething ring she had bought, one that also teaches the baby how to grip round objects, which was so important.
Yes, Gitty nodded vigorously, and Shaindy found herself wondering if her daughter-in-law even understood her broken Hebrew. They weren’t arguing deep ideology, and all the head-bobbing made no sense, in Shaindy’s opinion.
The other kids all came over to greet Heshy and Gitty, the baby passed from one to another like a little celebrity, and Shaindy found her earlier worries lifting. Maybe it would be okay after all. Maybe all Heshy needed was to be home. This was one of those rare moments — her family looking so together and functional and happy — and her heart caught in her throat as she looked at her youngest son.
It had been such a confusing few years for him, she thought. A young kid, barely 18, in an unfamiliar country, then married to a woman from a different culture and expected to blend in with a new family who didn’t get his world at all. On top of that, there was the new baby to deal with and money being tight. Of course, Heshy had seemed so different these past few years. Now, sitting on the couch surrounded by his siblings, he was back. She could tell by his smile.
She thought about Rabbi Putterman, her new neighbor with his fancy-shmancy chinuch lectures and dot-com websites and ideas, and reasoned that it was all overblown, the secret was as simple as this: People needed to feel comfortable and at home, that was it.
She was still smiling as she walked into the living room, having decided to just sit down on the couch and enjoy her family. She was entitled too.
“Heshela, how come you’re not eating any of the rugelach?” she asked.
“They happen to look amazing,” he said, “but for now, Ma, I took a little break from white flour, you know, the chemical bleaching is pretty intense. Aside from what the alloxan does to the pancreas, I also find that it affects my productivity, it pulls me down. So I’m going to have to pass on the cake.”
It was the way he said it — so proud, like he had discovered this on his own and was now sharing his findings at a conference — that caused the little stab of annoyance. Eat, don’t eat, she thought, but why the whole derashah and why is it always something new?
“Okay.” She smiled even wider, and looked back at the baby, as if to change the subject.
“Do you think he’s cold?” she asked Gitty, and came over to pull the blanket over the baby’s chin.
Gitty looked at her absently and nodded and Shaindy repeated the question in Hebrew. Gitty nodded and thanked her, but Shaindy thought that her daughter-in-law could have been a bit friendlier about the whole thing, a bit more emotionally invested in the conversation.
The women had asked Rabbi Putterman — the new guru of the neighborhood — to give a class on parenting married children. Maybe she would go.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 890)
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