| Jr. Feature |

The Hardest Goodbye

 We asked Jr. writers to tell us about a time in their lives when it was especially hard for them to say goodbye

One Year and Forever

Penina Steinbruch

I’ve spent almost 30 years working in a seminary in Eretz Yisrael. That means girls come to learn for a year, or maybe if they’re very lucky, two years, before they go back home. Since the girls know it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, they have important conversations with us, the staff, and we enjoy many good times together. The connections we form are very deep and real. We get to know each other and love each other. And then before you blink, it’s over and we’re saying goodbye.

It’s very hard and sad to say goodbye to girls who mean so much to me. Often my kids know them too, and have to bid farewell to a beloved babysitter who has become an important part of our family that year.

I wish I could keep in touch with everyone, but by now, I’ve met literally thousands of girls. If a girl keeps in touch with me, I always keep in touch with her. I think I’ve responded to every email I’ve ever received.

I’ve even had students who were daughters of former students, which is so special. Usually, I haven’t seen the mother since she was my student and meeting her daughter feels like I’ve stepped into a time machine!

As sad as it is, I’ve learned that it’s not really goodbye — we can always stay in touch and hopefully meet up again.

Exit Stage Left

Chaya Rosen

Whenever I see a stage, something pulls me toward it. The lighting, the curtains, the audience sitting in the dim light — it all makes my heart beat faster. I’ve always loved the stage, acting, and drama — throwing myself into a character, feeling the character’s passion, rage, joy, and despair. (Sounds a bit like writing, to be honest!)

I’ve been a little actress since I was a small girl, but there were just two years when I was able to actually use my talents on a real stage. When I was in seventh and eighth grades, my school had an optional, after-school drama chug (club) and, hesitantly, I joined. Not that I was hesitant to act, not at all — but we’d only moved to Israel a few years before, and I still wasn’t so confident in my Hebrew, or in my Israeli-style social skills.

But all that fell to the side when I met our amazing drama teacher, was assigned one of the leading roles (the following year, I was the lead), and started acting.

Drama became a place for me to shine, a place where I clearly had more talent than most of the other girls. My Hebrew may not have been as strong as theirs, I may have still stumbled over social cues and expectations, but on stage, I was a queen. I loved my drama teacher, I loved the rehearsals, I loved memorizing lines, and I loved captivating my audience with my acting skills.

At the end of eighth grade, along with graduation, my brief and wonderful experience in drama chug came to an end. Saying goodbye to that was one of the hardest goodbyes of my childhood.

Home Unknown

Malka Winner

I walked around the yard, edged in by woods on two sides, and slipped between the trees. There was the huge boulder my brother and I used to climb, the crack in the middle sprouting moss and tiny ferns. And over there was the spot where showy lady’s slippers burst out of the ground, a delightful pink surprise as spring eased into summer. Back there was the place where we’d found chunks of quartz, raw and seemingly magical in the woods. Over there was the maple that flamed crimson in autumn. And here we’d picked blueberries all summer, playing at endless hours of colonists, pilgrims, Indians, and explorers.

I scrambled up the beloved boulder — our fortress, our lookout tower, our storm-tossed ship in the sea, our desert island, our quiet place of contemplation — and looked around. It was going to be hard to leave all this behind. It wasn’t just the yard, the woods, the northeastern climate. It was my whole childhood. We were moving… and I, just past bas mitzvah, was also moving on.

Our new home, still unseen and unknown, was going to be in a new urban development, no woods in sight. And the North would be a distant memory, replaced by whatever new ways awaited us in the South. My small school would be traded for a much larger one. The games of make-believe and hours of outdoor entertainment would be relics of the past. Everything would be different.

I slid from my post on the boulder, enjoying the scrape of rough rock against my skin as I aimed my toes for the ground. I turned and looked at the woods one last time, imprinting the memories on my mind. Then I stepped out of our woods for the last time.

Goodbye… and Hello

Malka Grunhaus

As we walked in pensive silence, all we could hear was the sound of our own footsteps on the dark, quiet streets. We had done this walk before, so many times throughout this long year that we called seminary, but today was different.

We walked through the old streets until we stood on the steps overlooking the Kosel Plaza. And then, as the sun began to rise, we made our way down those steps toward the Kosel for the very last time. I stepped close to the Wall, my friends scattering to the right and to the left, and found a quiet, private spot for myself at the near-empty Kosel. The pale pink light of the rising sun cast a warm glow on the plaza, and I wondered what the next few years would bring. For all I knew, I would be like my friends’ parents — the ones who had not been back to Eretz Yisrael in 20 years. And how could I say a goodbye that would last for 20 years? I stood there, begging for my future until I would be back. And then, as I turned to go, tears coursed down my cheeks. I don’t usually cry, but it was so difficult to part from this place. From this connection.

That was the hardest goodbye I have ever had to say.

Little did I know I’d be back, living not too far away, less than a year later — back to say thank You because so many of my requests of the year before had been fulfilled.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 915)

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