| Teen Diary Serial |

The Girl That Was: Chapter 10   

My eyes opened wide. Mrs. Schonfeld was sharing something so personal. Mrs. Schonfeld didn’t have a perfect life? 


“Mindy, I want you to know that for the past year I have been davening for Hashem to give you strength and clarity. I didn’t reach out to you until now because I wanted to give you time. I don’t know if it was the right decision or not, but I based it on my own personal experience. My mother died when I was in 9th grade and I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want to be singled out for anything. I didn’t want to be a girl without a mother. I just wanted to be me.”

My eyes opened wide. Mrs. Schonfeld was sharing something so personal. Mrs. Schonfeld didn’t have a perfect life? And Mrs. Schonfeld’s mother died too? I didn’t know what to say. I was in shock.

But she continued talking.

“I know that your mother’s first yahrtzeit is coming up. And while I’ve been thinking about you, I’ve been remembering what I went through, too. I was sad that a full year went by. It seemed so wrong that life could go on when my mother wasn’t there anymore. I also felt responsible for all my younger siblings. I thought I had to step in to be the mother. But if they didn’t listen to me or got into trouble in school, I felt guilty. Like it was my fault and I should’ve tried harder.

“I also struggled with asking my father for money. My mother had been the main breadwinner and I was always so afraid that maybe I didn’t have the right to buy anything aside from the absolute basics. It was such a difficult, confusing, and painful time for me.

“And so I thought to myself that maybe it’s like that for you as well. Or maybe you are doing better than I did. But I just wanted to check up on you.”

I was mortified because I couldn’t fight back my tears. They were coming and I couldn’t stop them.

Mrs. Schonfeld handed me a tissue and I saw that she really understood my pain. She really got it.

That made me cry even more. I learned then that there is nothing like real empathy to make someone feel cared for.

It was a new beginning for me because suddenly I was connected to someone who understood me in a real way. There was no fluff there. I didn’t feel like she was making me into her chesed case. She really cared.

The words started tumbling out in a mish-mash.

“I also feel like I have to take care of everyone. I have to help my sister-in-law tons. After all, look what she did for me. I also have to check up on my grandmother every day. And I want to show Chaim that I’m there for him, even though he doesn’t really seem interested. There’s a community fund that was helping to support me, but it felt so awful that I tried to never ask my brother for money. I babysit as much as possible to earn my own money. But I’m also afraid that if I’m so busy babysitting, then I won’t have time to do homework and if I don’t get good grades the teachers will say, nebach, what can you expect from an orphan. I wish my mother was still alive!

“Sometimes I feel so different. But I don’t want to be seen as different. I don’t want people to label me like that. So I put on a show. I pretend that I’m okay.”

OMG! I couldn’t believe that I just said that to Mrs. Schonfeld, of all people. I wanted to run away. But no, I wanted to hear what she had to say. Did she think I was nuts?

She took her hand in mine and she said to me, “When I was going through all my stuff, a wise woman asked me, ‘Do you believe in Hashem?’ I was confused and even insulted. Of course, I do. I am a frum Bais Yaakov girl. Why are you asking me? And I answered with a very strong yes. She looked at me and said, ‘I didn’t doubt for a second that you did. But let’s see how you can improve your relationship with Hashem.’

“And so now I turn to you and ask: Do you believe in Hashem?”

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 927)

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