Then came the phone call. “Rivkie, it’s Chana. I cannot believe what I just heard"
November 2009. I’d just celebrated my 32nd birthday.
I had a pair of seven-year-old twins, a five-year-old daughter, and a four-year-old son. I looked in the mirror and could not believe that a soon-to-be divorcee was staring back at me.
I called the man at the health food store and asked for vitamins to tide me over. I actually said, “What can I take, my husband just picked up and left?” He sent me ITC powder and calcium tablets to help me sleep. And he said, “Don’t worry, you’ll get over this tough time.”
Then came the phone call. “Rivkie, it’s Chana. I cannot believe what I just heard. You must be going through so much. Are you home for Shabbos…? Good, because I’m sending you fish and kiggel.” (Kugel in our vernacular). And that was that. No inquisitive queries, no demands for explanations, no interrogations. Short and to the point.
Then came the delivery, and with it a message: “Rivkie, I’m sending you fish and kiggel every Friday forever! I don’t even care if you remarry — this is my show of support!” I laughed and told her she was crazy… that I’ll accept the food this week, but no more. Chana was a classmate from high school whom I’d scarcely kept up with. How could I accept this regularly?
But she was serious. After many unsuccessful protests, I gave up. My new roller coaster life left me no energy to fight her. Which wasn’t such a bad thing. Being alone when my children were with their father, learning to navigate bills, garbage day, and taxes were all new challenges.
Long after the initial “attention” from friends and relatives faded and I was just another woman in the grocery store, I knew someone remembered. There it was, every week. My stability amid the turbulence. A little touch of warmth and a great, big hug all wrapped up in a neat little loaf pan of fish and a fresh 9×13 of kugel. Sometimes potato, sometimes lokshen — that was the extent of the inconsistency.
At first, Chana even sent the food if I went away for Shabbos. I’d come to my host, happy to be able to contribute to the Shabbos meal. After a while, though, we started to communicate via text to confirm whether or not I’d be home, as taking the food was not always practical. At last, Chana agreed to something!
Only when her baby Yechiel was born did my dear friend take a break… the week of the shalom zachor. It was quite an unusual setup: I’d go for weeks at a time with our only communication being our confirmation texts over whether or not I’d be home that week.
Remarry I did, and baruch Hashem my life started anew. But like all beginnings, especially those involving two sets of children, many adjustments were necessary. House construction, therapy, and lots of travel. As each week brought new surprises, one thing was certain. There it was, waiting on my front porch if I wasn’t home at delivery time. This quiet show of solidarity, my package of mahn that demanded nothing of me in return.
We’re now entering February 2020. That makes 11 years of extraordinary support. A lot can happen in 11 years, and a lot did. Yet during that time I hardly even reached out to say a proper thank you. So here I am, making an accounting of sorts.
This is for you, Chana. My blessings to you for another year as sweet as the fish and hearty as the kugel. A life full of G-d’s kindnesses, showered upon you, week after week, month after month, as consistent as the rising sun.
(Originally Featured in Family First, Issue 684)
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