| Double Take |

Stalled Car Pool

There are some mornings that my little girl is standing by the front door, French-braided hair, lunchbox and all — and Elisheva’s car takes forever to arrive
Dina

How could you let me down at the last minute?

Elisheva

I appreciate what you’ve done for me, but our arrangement doesn’t work for my family any more. Afternoon car pool. Crawling cars, incessant beeping, bottleneck traffic in front of the school.

I leaned on the wheel and glanced up at the clock. Two minutes till dismissal. Good thing I’m experienced at this. I calculated that I had six minutes until the girls come out, a minute or two to have everyone buckled in. Eight minutes maximum, and we should be on our way.

“Hi, Mommy!”

My third-grader plopped into the front seat. Her ponytail was loose and her bookbag half-unzipped. I reached over to close it.

“How was your day, honey?”

She spoke through a mouthful of muffin. “It was so fun! We’re doing a new project.”

“Wow, that’s so exciting, Rikki. You’ll have to tell me about it later.” A car beeped behind me. I edged forward. “Where are Tzippy and Leah? Did you see them?”

Rikki shook her head. I felt my shoulders tense. Where were Elisheva’s daughters? How come Rikki was always out here earlier than they were?

The car behind me released one last beep, then swerved in front of me. I slammed on the brakes. “People are crazy,” I muttered.

Rikki opened sky-blue eyes wide. “Who?”

“Nothing, hon. Oh, here they are.”

Tzippy and Leah clambered into the back seat, arguing.

“Girls, let’s just get buckled up quickly, we need to go,” I said, trying to rein in my impatience.

“She’s putting her bag on my feet!” Leah whined.

“But this morning when you sat in the front, I had everyone’s bags on my feet, and I was in the worst seat,” Tzippy defended herself stubbornly.

I resisted the urge to beep. “Girls, it really doesn’t matter. Let’s go!”

I got to Elisheva’s front door just as her car pulled into the driveway. Perfect timing.

“Hello, everyone!” Elisheva looked tired, but poised: The classic high school teacher. She was a high-school teacher, sheitel perfect, bag bursting with papers and books. Wednesday was her busiest day. She came over to the window. “Dina! Thanks as always. Great timing. Kids, let’s go! You wanna come in for a few minutes, Dina?”

“Not today… I have a client coming soon. See you tomorrow.”

“You bet!” She winked. Elisheva did the mornings, picking up Rikki on her way to take her kids to their respective schools, her youngest to the babysitter, and then on to the high school where she worked. I honestly didn’t know how she did it; I can’t do mornings. But then again, with five kids, she probably didn’t have much of a choice.

I sometimes marveled at it as I waved goodbye to Rikki from the kitchen, snug in my robe and slippers, nursing a cup of coffee and some biscotti or a Danish. There she was, sheitel, makeup and all — plus all the little ones with their bags and lunches. Rikki’s a good kid, but getting her out the door in the mornings is more than enough for me sometimes.

But then again, there are some mornings that my little girl is standing by the front door, French-braided hair, lunchbox and all — and Elisheva’s car takes forever to arrive.

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 773)

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