old it there, Daina. If you keep the ribbon fixed in place, I can pin it in a straight line.”

Standing on tiptoe, Daina stretches out her arm. Morah Chagit is not that much taller than she is, but she’s on a ladder, while Daina is on a low stool. Struggling to keep her arm still, Daina scans the music room, assessing the effect of what they have done so far.

The old merry silver notes are piled forlornly in a heap now, and fake crepe curtains hang on either side of the wall, simulating a window looking out onto a street. Daina was surprised when Chagit had asked her, of all people, to help her prepare for the lower grades’ Chanukah party, but she was happy to be involved. Anything to do with music works fine for her.

“Would you mind passing me the tape?” Chagit asks, holding up the sparkly blue bows that are meant to serve as curtain ties.


But the tape is not enough to get the bows to stick, and Chagit plugs in the glue gun.

“So… Daina. How are things?”

Daina fiddles with her roll of tape. Chagit gives her a questioning glance.

“Okay,” Daina mumbles.

“What’s up?”

“I spoke to my Motina yesterday.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?”

“I don’t know. She sounds happier than when I left. But she wants me to go back and live there.”

Chagit’s eyebrows shoot up. “To Lithuania?”

“Taip. She doesn’t have a proper home or anything, though. She’s living in a shelter. When we left… let’s just say she wasn’t in a good state.”

Chagit’s forehead furrows in concern. “I see.”

Daina feels grateful. The way Chagit said it, it sounds like she really does understand.

“Do you want to go back?”

“I don’t know. Part of me misses Teplidskai. Other parts don’t.”

“Like, which?”

Daina reaches for her ponytail and pulls away the elastic. She shakes her hair all over shoulders and pulls it back neatly again. She shrugs.

Chagit steps off her ladder and holds out a tub of cardboard cutouts: golden dreidels, silver menorahs, pewter jugs.

“Here. Now we just need to scatter these all over, between the curtains. See?” Chagit turns one over. “You just stick some blue-tack in the center and then press it hard.”

Daina picks out a shiny jug. This thing seems to be following her around.

“It’s funny, you know…” She looks up at Chagit.

Chagit is watching her intently. She hasn’t hung up any of her cardboard cutouts.

“So… I know I’m Jewish. You know. Just like you. I can’t explain it, but it makes me happy to know that. Motina — not so much. She’s Christian. If I go back, it’ll be tough. And here… it’s different.”

Daina rubs the cardboard jug absently against her cheek as she ploughs forward with her thoughts. “I’m, like, in a parallel dimension. It’s a whole new world.”

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 630)