| Teen Fiction |

Teen Fiction: Curtain Call

My thoughts were far from the choir. The situation was bleak. I was picturing all of us sitting with our mothers, around beautifully set, round tables. Argh. A nightmare

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I t seemed as if the birds stopped chirping to allow for Mrs. Klinger’s announcement. The classroom was hushed still.

I leaned forward my hands grasping my face. I couldn’t miss a word.

“…finally I’m so pleased to announce the heads Dassy Braun and Leah Gancfried.”

I glanced at Dassy and Leah and clapped twice. I was awaiting the rest of the announcement. I needed to know whether the mothers would be invited this year. That for me was the difference between life and death. Okay that was dramatic. Rather between fun or torture and embarrassment.

“…and Mrs. Loebenstein will be heading the choir. And this year we look forward to inviting your mothers for the event including the brunch following the choir.”

My shoulders dropped. No way. This was not happening.

My face fell into my hands.

The classroom’s silence had popped as my classmates and friends chattered excitedly.

“What do you say Raizy?” Leeba dropped herself onto my desk moving my head out of the way. “This is so exciting! With your voice I’m sure you’ll get a solo.”

My thoughts were far from the choir. The situation was bleak. I was picturing all of us sitting with our mothers around beautifully set round tables. Argh. A nightmare.

“Yep so exciting.” My voice was flat.

“Seriously Raiz? What’s up? You feeling okay?” Leeba stared at me hard.

“Yeah just nervous about the science quiz today” I mumbled. I knew she wouldn’t fall for it.

“I so do not fall for that Raizel Fruchter!” I hated the name Raizel. And I hated that Leeba was sitting on my desk and staring down at me.

“Ha,” I laughed. I stood up. “Let’s go get lunch I’m starving!”

Leeba followed me apparently forgetting about my mood lapse. The smell of pizza made me salivate but did not help me forget about my pressing issue.

In my class of 30 my mother was an anomaly. My family had lived in Israel until I turned two. My mother a born-and-bred Israeli is the best mother in the world. She’s fun and full of personality. At home she is my everything.

But in public, boy did I feel differently. Her jarring accent is so noticeable around the perfect English shared by New Yorkers. My mother is vivacious and wouldn’t hesitate to start a conversation about the most random topics with anyone. She wears colors freely and sports the most random platforms and wedges instead of regular shoes. She is just plain embarrassing.

I debate how to deal with this on a constant basis.

I never actually appear in public with my mother. Usually I send my mother to PTA with warnings to act as American as possible and can only hope she doesn’t start up with anyone or share anything too embarrassing. I usually console myself by convincing myself that PTA is not a social affair and no one knows that the colorful Israeli lady is my mother.

One year, Shira Rosen asked me about my mother’s hot-pink sweater. Her mother had come home from PTA and told her that she must find out where Raizy Fruchter’s mother shopped, because she always had the cutest clothes. Cutest, my foot. Most outlandish, I’d say. I’d told Shira that my mother usually hits the malls, and then proceeded to ask her whether Miss Poltman had told her mother about the time she cut class.

Shira had probably forgotten about the sweater, but I was convinced she hadn’t. There was no way in the world the rest of the class could see my mother in action. This was not happening. My mother could not be at the choir performance.

All plans of keeping the mother-daughter event classified were dropped when the mail came. I walked into the house on Tuesday, two weeks before SE-Day (Super Embarrassing Day!) to my mother waving a brightly colored invitation. Apparently, Ateres Faiga had gotten super fancy this year.

“This is so exciting, motek!” She giggled as she pecked me on my cheek. “I’m happy to finally be seeing your whole class.” She handed me a slip of paper. “And I write that I will be doing the cheesecake for the brunch. Please, Raizy, give this to the teacher.” My mother’s accent, usually one I barely heard, now drilled into my nerves. This was not happening. But it was.

I smiled wanly and took the paper. “I have a lot of homework,” I mumbled as I bolted from the kitchen.

SE-Day did come. The school cafeteria was decorated in gaily waving blue and white Chanukah designs. My classmates rushed around, putting finishing touches on the tables, and fixing the chairs.

Ruchy and I had been told to place the ice-cold cappuccinos on the tables five minutes before eleven. Holding two glass pitchers in my hand, I bumped right into my mother as she walked in.

My first thought, Her yellow coat clashes with the décor, was followed a moment later by, Does she have to wear purple wedges?! But I mustered a “Hi, Ma,” trying to appear confident to my friends. This was sooo hard for me.

My mother wrapped me in a hug, disregarding the tottering pitchers in my hands. She laughed loudly to my friends. “Leeba, Ruchy! So nice to seeing you.”

I cringed, but smiled and decided to pretend to bear it. And hoped no one else came over to join us.

The choir was starting in a few minutes. “See you soon, Ma,” I whispered, and I rushed backstage to join my classmates. I just hoped she’d find a seat without making too much of a ruckus.

By now, most of my classmates were with me behind stage. I don’t know what made me peek, but I did. From behind the curtains, I looked at the crowd of mothers that had gathered.

And then I saw Rachelli.

Rachelli was the latest addition to our class, her fun and charismatic personality attracting all. She had only joined us this year, but was already part of the “in group,” and well-liked by all. She was tall and striking, and had the kindest blue eyes. You couldn’t help but like her.

Rachelli was walking in, alongside a woman in a wheelchair. She was talking to her, with excitement and a real smile.

This couldn’t be.

Rachelli’s mother.

I watched Rachelli walk over to Mrs. Klinger and introduce her mother. Rachelli smiled happily, as Mrs. Klinger seemed to be saying kind things about her, leaning down to her mother.

I searched Rachelli’s eyes for some trace of discomfort, embarrassment. And found none. Apparently, she didn’t share my vision of SE-Day.

Rachelli joined us backstage two minutes later. She slipped into her costume, chattering with her friends, just being her usual happy self.

But I’d seen more.

I’d seen strength. Acceptance.

And if she could do that, I could learn to do it too.

As we finished the strains of the last melody, and headed off stage to our mothers, I rushed into my mother’s embrace. Her accented “Good job,” and “Yofi, Raizy!” were music to my ears.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 644)

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