| Second Dance |

Second Dance: Chapter 37

“I’m looking for my son, I just wish I understood him a bit better, like, that I really knew what he’s about”



omething had changed between Shaindy Brucker and her son, but she couldn’t put her finger on what. Heshy was meeting with this rosh yeshivah almost every day, planning something big. She heard him whispering with Gitty downstairs about it, and even though her Hebrew wasn’t great, she could piece together most of it.

He liked the rosh yeshivah, liked his sincerity, and saw real potential in the yeshivah. He didn’t want to come into a successful yeshivah, she heard him saying, but davka to this type of situation, where he could make things happen.

She wanted Chaim to ask him about money, but Chaim didn’t seem eager to have that conversation. There was something in his face, then, when she brought up the topic, that made her confront him head-on.

“How do you think they’re living?” she asked. “I mean, they don’t pay rent, or for most food, but they still have to dress the baby and stuff like that. Where’s the money coming from?”

One day, Brachi had mentioned that her Chaya’s morah was understaffed and kept losing assistants, and Shaindy suggested that Brachi recommend Gitty for the position.

“I mean, she doesn’t really speak English, but she doesn’t have to, the kids don’t talk yet either, right? And she’s fabulous with children, just has a natural touch,” added Shaindy, who actually felt that Gitty, although a conscientious mother, clearly did not have the natural touch. “Maybe bring it up?”

So Brachi did, after Shaindy had reminded her a few times and cautioned her to do it diplomatically, because without diplomacy there was no point, and it could even do more harm than good. Brachi reported that her sister-in-law had thanked her but said that Heshy didn’t want her working, he felt that mothers should be with their own children, and so many of the issues he saw with the bochurim he worked with came because people didn’t understand that.

“Ma, if she wants to listen to him preach chinuch, that’s wonderful,” Brachi said airily, “but I don’t have to hear second-hand deios from a 23-year-old, okay?”

Shaindy found the comment mean-spirited and said she had to hang up, but that had been the only talk of Gitty working. Now, as she studied Chaim’s expression, she realized that he must have been giving Heshy money too.

And she hadn’t known. Just like she hadn’t known about their early morning learning seder.

“Do you give him money?” she asked, her tone more accusing than she would have liked.

Chaim shrugged. “A bit, here and there. A person needs to have cash in their pocket to feel like a mensch — even a person who doesn’t have to worry about rent and food.”

“But where do you have extra money from?” she asked.

He shrugged again, not very perturbed by the question.

“Shaindy,” he said gently, “if you decide something is important, then you don’t need extra money for it, you just pay for it like you pay for everything else.”

This was classic Chaim logic: sound, reasonable, insightful — and very frustrating.

If Heshy was really taking this job and moving out, then she had to act quickly. She wasn’t sure what her goal was, but she knew this: When Heshy and Gitty remembered the time spent living in Alameda Gardens, they would remember it fondly, crediting those months with creating such a close relationship between them all. They would laugh about the people, share memories and laughter about a young couple and a baby in an old-people community, and it would all be a delicious bit of family lore.

Shaindy had expected it to be easier, but so far, the magic hadn’t happened. She was generous and warm with all of them, and often, she and Heshy worked side-by-side in the kitchen preparing one of his Leil Shishi gatherings, but there were still more barriers that needed to fall.

Since her grandson Leizer had told her about Heshy doing kabbalah with the men in the shul, or whatever he’d called it, she’d been desperate to see her son in action.

Maybe that would help her understand him a bit better.


Shaindy Brucker walked the long way around the shul, then circled back on York, as if she were looking for something on the ground.

People smiled politely, and thankfully no one asked what she was looking for. She stopped by the corner on the shul and peered into the hydrangea bush, which was pretty bare in this cold weather. It was weird to be looking straight through the fading branches at the frosty ground, and she walked on.

By the third window, the bush was a bit more robust, and it seemed plausible that she would have lost something there. She stopped and got busy, leaning in until her head was almost touching the window.

She had no idea where Heshy sat, whom he sat with, and what kind of conversations he had, but she would find out.

She knew how to get to the bottom of things.

She pressed her nose to the screen of the open window, trying to see inside what appeared to be a dark room, while also pretending to be looking for something in the bush.

She made out shapes, and heard snatches of conversation, but nothing that could help her. Heshy didn’t even seem to be inside the shul. Maybe he had an office?

She straightened up, and made eye contact with her neighbor, Rabbi Putterman, who was walking down the winding path to the side door.

He looked at her curiously, but remained his courteous self. He nodded and said, “Good afternoon, Mrs. Brucker. Actually, it’s pretty much good evening.”

She nodded back.

“Can I help you? Did you lose something here?” he asked in a concerned tone, and she knew then that it was obvious to him that she didn’t lose anything, and so he was overcompensating by trying to pretend he thought she did.

She hadn’t been planning to answer him at all, but something made her pause. Heshy would be moving out soon and life didn’t present many chances like this.

“I am looking for something, actually,” she said, “though I didn’t lose it.”

He looked confused, which was unusual for him.

“I’m looking for my son, I just wish I understood him a bit better, like, that I really knew what he’s about. I know he’s very popular here with the men, and I was hoping to sort of see him in action…”

Her voice trailed off, because she could see that he got it. He understood her.

“Yah, I know what you mean. He’s a special young man, with remarkable insight,” he said.

Last week, Rabbi Putterman had given a shiur about learning how to move on from mistakes. “We all did the best we could with our children, making the decisions we thought wise,” he had said emphatically, “and it’s important that we don’t let the mistakes we made along the way, which are normal and natural, hamper us forever. Just like we forgive other people, we have to forgive ourselves too.”

He had involuntarily looked at his wife when he said this, and it was obvious — at least to Shaindy, who had confirmed it with Nechama after, she had also noticed — that he was talking about himself. Which child had he messed up with, the women wondered: the rich one?

Now, as she felt his empathy, she knew again that after all the lectures, he was just another parent like her, trying to know his child.

It was quiet, then, and he nodded awkwardly and walked on.

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 915)

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