"Y our brother?” I breathe out.

Perfect Shiri has a brother at the Early Years?

“Yeah” she says nonchalantly. “What are you doing here Naomi?”

Before I can respond a tiny boy streaks across the room and leaps into Shiri’s arms.

Yellow hair between the leather sleeves of her coat.


She nuzzles his head and drops him lightly on the floor beside her.

“Bye bye ” he says to me.

“You know him?” Shiri asks.

“I’m his carer on Sundays ” I say my voice croaking a little. “We had a great time today.”

“Did you?” She addresses the question to Ushi and he nods very fast four times.

“Great munchkin ” she says and she takes his hand in her tan glove.

“Bye Naomi ” she calls over her shoulder “Thanks for taking care of him today.”

And they are gone.

Not a blush no hemming and hawing just thanks taking responsibility for this child who is so obviously different. How is she so straight about it so unflustered so normal?

I stand near the coat hooks for a moment fiddling with the zipper on my coat. So Princess Charming’s life is not as charmed as I thought. She has a little brother with Down syndrome who is sweetness itself but also a bounding ball of energy and often super challenging.

A boy who is tiny for his age and developmentally delayed and will never be perfect like Shiri.

The zipper snags on the side of my coat.

If even Shiri Diamant’s life is not perfect is anyone’s?

Dear Daddy

The harpist is the beginning of new things grand things original things… A saxophonist and an accordionist join your band too. You want us to meet the new group. To meet the new you really I think afterwards.

Instead of dinner at Chai Thai we come to the shul on the corner of Harbor Street. That’s where your band practices. Your friend the gabbai gives you free rein of the attic the room we once dubbed the “nursing home for old chairs.” You’ve cleared it of aging furniture now the chair we loved the one that swivelled too fast gone to the dump with the others…

Rafi and I sit off to the side and the smell in the room — woodsy musty with a hint of old seforim — takes me away. I close my eyes and I’m half my age singing and tapping to the music from the old karaoke machine a carefree girl who doesn’t know the harsh jagged edges of a broken home…

Ba-dum-tss. Mikey gives a welcoming bang on the drums. The others start up too tuning instruments trying them out. I spot the new players big strapping men both. You are almost lost beside them in their loud manner big-throated laughs. I shudder.

The room darkens. In the sloping attic window night chases the sun away.

It is scary and beautiful all the same.

Like your band.

You step up onto some crates in the middle of the room and throw us a smile. And you Dad — quiet unobtrusive modest — take the stage…

The band is arranged in a semi-circle around you a kind of halo. It’s all for you the whole band exists for the singer I muse and I watch you assume center stage easily with a confident little swagger.

Who are you? I want to scream. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr. Issue 687)