| Second Dance |

Second Dance: Chapter 16

She couldn’t meet her son’s eyes, knowing that she had just interrupted his kiddush and sort of killed the atmosphere


Chaim was sitting at the table with an open Chumash, but Shaindy could tell from the way he was tapping his fingers that he was getting a bit impatient.

The Staglers were planning to start the seudah at 12:15, which Shaindy thought was a bit Queensy. There was no reason to start after 11:30, she felt. Still, you don’t complain when you’re a guest.

And the later timing gave Heshy more time for his kiddush, which, it turned out, was being held right there, in the Brucker backyard. The minyan at the old rav had been jammed, as Heshy had hoped, and it seemed like the whole crowd had come here for the promised kiddush and Heshy’s homemade herring.

Shaindy looked out the kitchen window and allowed her mind to wander. When they had first seen the plans for this house, she had imagined peering out the window to this backyard and watching eineklach play, maybe the older ones reading in the corner under the trees that existed only in the plans but not yet in real life. If Chaim would ever become the rav, she had thought — not that she was counting on it, but you never know — the backyard would be a nice place for a women’s shiur too, maybe Pirkei Avos or something in the spring. She could make pink lemonade, nothing too elaborate. A shiur should never be about the refreshments, she believed.

Now the single picnic table meant for six adults was holding about twelve people, and Heshy had brought all the lawn chairs over. He was walking around like the maître d’ and making sure everyone was comfortable. There were a few teenage boys near the fence, and he went over to them and started a niggun. They looked hesitant, but Heshy was the type who would sing himself until they joined. He did a few rounds with them, then moved on.

She was able to hear his little speech, delivered with one hand on the shoulder of a man she didn’t know — maybe it was the husband of that grumpy-ish woman from the corner, the rich ones who used to live in Chicago, she couldn’t tell.

“Listen,” Heshy was saying, “in Meah Shearim they don’t know from tequila yet, we’re still at arak, that’s more like a licorice flavor, it’s pretty strong, so we don’t add a lot. But I would think that for tequila, plain seltzer would go good, or maybe mix in some orange soda, even?”

Shaindy stood on the tips of her toes and saw Dr. Durnst, who had been an orthopedist in Passaic, listening as if he was enthralled. “Yeah, that’s an idea I could get behind,” he said, and reached for the bottle of ShopRite orange soda. “Let’s try.”

Heshy was still wearing his tallis thrown casually over his shoulders and she watched him cross the yard, where Rabbi Bordin was enjoying the Yerushalmi kugel Gitty had made. “Six doros of Yerushalayim in this recipe,” Heshy said, “it’s a mesorah.”

This struck Shaindy as a bit of an injustice, since Mrs. Bordin, whom she remembered from camp, had pretty much ignored her since she’d come to Alameda. Shaindy had tried reminiscing about their bunk, just as a way of renewing ties, and Malky Borden smiled politely and said, “Who can remember what happened last week, let alone 50 years ago, right?” so no ties were renewed.

Now Shaindy peered into the dining room, told Chaim she would be back in a moment — she was just going to see where Heshy was holding — and then she opened the door and walked into the backyard.

Her backyard.

“Gut Shabbos everybody,” she said brightly to all the men, and, after a moment, they shuffled and turned to look at her. There were a few returned greetings.

“I’m so happy everyone is having a wonderful time,” she said, “and I just wanted to let you know that we would love it if next time you joined the kiddush here, you brought your wives as well. They’re welcome here too.”

It was quiet then, and she turned to go back inside. She couldn’t meet her son’s eyes, knowing that she had just interrupted his kiddush and sort of killed the atmosphere.

But as she passed by him, Heshy looked up at her and winked. “You do you, Ma,” he said gently.

Shaindy didn’t know what it meant, and it would play in her mind the rest of the day. It didn’t make her feel good. His being upset would have been better, she thought.


The envelope was hand addressed, but the letter itself was typewritten.

Mr. Reuven Stagler, President, Alameda Gardens.

He wasn’t president, but whatever.

The anonymous writer made it very clear that in the letter every resident had signed when completing the purchase, there had been a very clear stipulation.

Guests are welcome, of course, but renting out your homes, even short-term, must be approved by the council. In addition, while having children and grandchildren over is wonderful and recommended, having them move in to the home on a more permanent basis is not allowed, as residents come here specifically for the quieter, more peaceful lifestyle.

Reuven hadn’t known that, and he quickly pulled up the residents’ agreement he had signed. There it was, as the writer said, pretty straightforward.

I do not know if you’re aware, but your immediate neighbors, the Brucker family, have their son and his wife and baby with them, apparently for the foreseeable future with no real plan. To me, this is a violation of a bylaw we collectively agreed to and perhaps a form of gezel as well. I do trust that as president, the one charged with ensuring that there is order in our community and that it retains its peaceful, serene feel, you will deal with this without delay.

Reuven folded the letter and mused that he really needed a file for this type of thing. He stood up and took down a thick folder, wondering if this could be considered miscellaneous. He would ask Nechama to order new folders specifically for Alameda business, he decided, and then determine in which folder something like this belonged.

Then he wandered off to the kitchen to ask Nechama about what the deal was with the Bruckers’ son. The young man seemed pleasant, even if he parked on a weird angle, as if it took work to get into the spot and there were cars on either side — which there weren’t.

They had come over to eat last Shabbos — Nechama had been in the mood of inviting guests — and the son, Heshy or Hershy or whatever, had sung a melody for “Ki Eshmera Shabbos” that Reuven had found absolutely delightful. This Heshy had told them that he had learned it from some Tunisian neighbors of his and then regaled them with all sorts of information about Tunisian minhagim.

It would be a shame to have to get into an altercation with his neighbors and friends, the Bruckers, over this, especially when the young family was so pleasant. The bylaw, Reuven reasoned, was meant for families with many children, kids running across the street or leaving bikes strewn all over, not this. This was a couple and a little baby, that was it.

There was no reason to overreact, he liked to say. Overreaction was worse than no reaction. That was his style.

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 894)

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