As I was opening the door I heard my name mentioned. So instead of walking in, I eavesdropped
Camp was great. It was amazing to get away from all the pain. My friends knew that I had lost my mother. They also knew that for all intents and purposes I didn’t have a father. But I was clear to them that I wanted to be treated like a regular girl. And for three-and-a-half blissful weeks, I was normal.
Well, at least I looked regular on the outside. And I did have a grand time. But inside I was very worried. How was Chaim doing? How was Bubby? Was Yehudah remembering to check up on them frequently?
And then came the self-doubt. Maybe I should have stayed home to help make everything run smoothly.
Mommy, where are you? I need you.
Visiting day arrived. Many of my friends didn’t have anyone coming for them and so we made our own plans. But the conversation that I overheard in the camp office that morning was horrible.
I stopped in to put something in the lost and found, and as I was opening the door I heard my name mentioned. So instead of walking in, I eavesdropped.
Nebach, Mindy has no one coming for her. You know her parents divorced, her father has nothing to do with the family. And her mother was niftar.
Nebach. So sad.
It’s terrible. But she seems to have adjusted nicely. She has friends and she seems happy.
Yeah, but you can tell. I kind of had a feeling that there was a story but I never knew what it was…
Some girls walked by at that moment talking and laughing. I missed the rest of the conversation. But I was devastated. Really, people could tell that I was different? My act wasn’t good enough?
I thought back to that first conversation with Bubby. She told me that we all have “things.” I needed to feel confident. It was time to up my confidence and my act.
I would not be known as the girl without parents or the girl whose mother died. I would not give anyone any reason to pity me.
I would be the girl who is amazing despite some rough challenges. I would be the girl who doesn’t have a mother but is sooooo normal.
I came home from camp with only a few days until school began. I walked into that classroom that first day with my head held high because I was a girl who was just like everyone else.
Succos was difficult. It brought up many memories. It was only a year ago that we were preparing excitedly for a chasunah. Mommy was coughing but as far as we knew she wasn’t seriously sick.
It’s unreal what can happen in one short year.
As her first yahrtzeit approached, I was a bit apprehensive. I didn’t know what the day would be like. I didn’t know what I would feel like and I didn’t know what I wanted from my friends. Did I want them to acknowledge it or ignore it?
Did I want to let myself be sad or continue to pretend?
In addition, Bubby was becoming forgetful. She was surprised when I told her that it was almost the yahrtzeit. I was really nervous about her. I had so much going on inside me. I really felt so lonely.
That word etched its way into my brain. I was lonely. Surrounded by friends and family, but still, so lonely.
Mrs. Schonfeld was that teacher who everyone admired and respected but was also intimidated by. She seemed so perfect. Her sheitel and clothes were always impeccable. Stylish but tzinyus. She gave the most riveting lessons that left us in heated discussion long after her class was over. Every once in a while, she would throw in something humorous that showed us that she could really be funny too.
Over the past years, teachers asked me if I wanted to talk to them. But I said no. I didn’t need to be singled out, thank you very much. I was not a nebach case, I was normal, so please don’t think that I need you to fix up my life.
But Mrs. Schonfeld never offered. And I didn’t admit it to anyone, but I kind of wished that she would have. And then one day she did. When she returned my test to me she wrote a note asking me to meet her during lunch.
My stomach was in knots.
When I went to her, she walked with me to a room all the way on the other side of the building, a place where no one would see us.
We sat down. And she started talking.
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 926)
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