| Teen Fiction |

Generation Gap

“I don’t understand how you never have time for me! I’m the only one home and I’m forever helping you. You never attend my school events! I feel like an orphan”

At Seudah Shlishis, I held my two-year-old niece on my lap as I listened with half an ear to the conversation between my mother and older sisters, who came to join us while their husbands were in shul.

“Ma, remember when we went to Disneyland?” asked Leah, as she helped herself to a piece of cake.

“You became chummy-chummy with Mickey Mouse,” Ma chided with a smile.

Aliza laughed as she rocked her baby and said, “I was intensely jealous when Mickey Mouse held your hand!”

“When I tried getting near Minnie Mouse, you wouldn’t let me, Ma,” added Devora.

“Please let’s not talk about when we got stuck in the Ferris wheel,” my mother teased.

If I could add in my two cents, I would say, “Boring!”

I’m a bas zekunim, born when my parents were busy marrying off my older siblings. Yeah, it’s awesome having my own room, no competition in the house, and all these delicious nieces and nephews, but there is one downside to being born later in my parent’s lives, and that is my mother’s physical stamina. Or lack thereof. Her knees aren’t what they used to be, which eliminated many family trips, especially Chol Hamoed outings. When my classmates gush about their vacation adventures, I have nothing to contribute! It doesn’t seem fair.

Later that evening, as I helped with the Motzaei Shabbos clean-up, I reminded my mother about Monday night’s PTA meeting. “I can’t wait until you meet Mrs. Shapiro. She’s such an amazing teacher.”

“Did you say Monday night?” asked Ma, as she warmed her hands on her mug.

“Yes, why?” I asked tensely. I continued washing the dishes but I was getting nervous.

“That morning I have a doctor’s appointment, and in the afternoon I have to visit Grandma. I’m afraid a third outing will be a bit too much for one day.”

I found myself scrubbing the same knife five times. Why can’t she make time for me? “Maybe you can push off the doctor’s appointment?” I tried.

“The one that I booked three months ago?” Ma asked as she walked over to me and squeezed my shoulders. “I’m sure your teacher will sing the highest of praises of you!”

I stewed as I scoured the cholent pot. Ma made time for Leah, Aliza, and Devora when they were young, so why couldn’t she do the same for me? She knew about this meeting a week ago!  This was yet another “privilege” of being a bas zekunim.

A few weeks later I came across a mega, one-day sale at Zara. Wow, I was waiting for this! Ma had reassured me that when I spotted this one-day sell-out she would accompany me to help choose some outfits. When I let her know, she said, “Wednesday afternoon? No good. I have a doctor’s appointment that day. Dr. Halperin set aside time especially for me.”

I nearly ripped the colorful advertisement in anger. Ma couldn’t let me down yet again! Before I could stop myself, I said, “I don’t understand how you never have time for me! I’m the only one home and I’m forever helping you. You never attend my school events! I feel like an orphan,” I said in despair, tears already coursing down my cheeks.

Ma sat by the kitchen table looking very small. She cradled her head with her two wrinkled hands. I should have stopped then, but I was too fired up to put on the brakes.

“Even a simple shopping trip which used to be fun has morphed into mission impossible,” I said a bit too loud.

Leah suddenly appeared at the doorway and asked, “Everything all right? I just popped by to return some books. I let myself in when nobody answered. Meir’s babysitting.”

“I think I’d better lie down,” said Ma.

Leah rushed to her side and asked, “How about a cup of tea first?”

“No, I’m fine. You stay with Goldie,” she said in a firm voice as she slowly walked to the bedroom.

I sat hunched over the blue and white checkered tablecloth and stared into space.

“Whoa, I’m glad Dad’s out. What’s going on, Goldie?”

“I’m more comfortable talking in my room,” I said slowly.

Leah settled herself by my desk, while I climbed onto my bed.

“Hey, when did you make this stunning picture! And your linens are gorgeous. When did you get them?”

“Huh? Oh, that art project? I made it at an extracurricular club, and the linens were a birthday surprise from Ma.”

“Nice. So what was all that ruckus about?”

I sighed, “Ma never has time for me! You sisters had a life, a real mother who had energy and interest in you. Ma’s past all that, and I feel so alone,” I cried.

“Wait a minute, since when have you felt this way?”

“Well, there’s a super sale at Zara and Ma can’t take me because of yet another doctor’s appointment. Her reaction just pushed me over the edge, I guess.”

“Don’t you realize that she has a host of medical issues to deal with?”

“And they consistently take precedence over everything! Why did I have to be born to an older mother?”

“Goldie Kaufman!” Leah shouted.

I bolted straight up as if bitten by a snake. I went too far. “Leah, I didn’t really mean that…”

“Get a hold of yourself,” she cut in. “Who crafted this wonderful arrangement? You? Me?” My sister stood with her hands on her hips.

“Yeah, I know, Hashem. Now you’re going to tell me to be quiet and be happy because everything that Hashem does is good.”

Leah blinked rapidly. “Sort of. Look, I do want you to realize that the arrangement of our lives, down to the smallest detail, is the best for us, even if we don’t think so. Don’t think that we older sisters had it all good and just lived it up when we were younger.”

“But… you went on all those amazing family trips!”

She waved her hand. “True, but we were never allowed to choose any extracurricular activities, even though we begged for them! And new trendy linen? Dream on, there was no chance of that happening! Please keep in mind that despite Ma’s lack of strength, she still feels tons of love for you and is very invested in you.”

“Thanks big sis, you gave me some food for thought.”

“Goldie, please forgive me for being a bit rough. Oh, and can you join me Wednesday? I’d like to go to the sale.”

“Would love to, we’ll be in touch.”

Later that week, my sister and I riffled through the colorful outfits at Zara. I tried on two ensembles which Leah thought were out of this world. As we went to pay, she commented, “Ma would never have let me spend this kind of money on clothes when I was your age.”

“I guess there really are perks to being a bas zekunim!” I said with a smile.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 743)

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Tagged: Teen Fiction