Zeidy looked thoughtfully at Malky and Eli. “You know, you two remind me of myself and Tanta Temi at your age”
"Wow! Look how full it is!”
“Look at the treetops sticking out of the water!”
“The island is nowhere to be seen!”
Two years ago, the Bernstein family had taken a trip to the Kinneret and the water level had been dangerously low. Trees grew on the shoreline that had once been part of the big lake. Where there had once been a boat rental, grass grew with just enough water to make it muddy. The children had been taught in school that they needed to daven for rain. Ima and Abba had promised then that if Hashem answered their tefillos and the Kinneret filled up, they would return to the Kinneret for a boat ride.
Now, on Chol Hamoed Pesach, after two very rainy winters, the Kinneret was full and the Bernsteins found themselves back at the shore. The children could hardly believe their eyes, noticing the difference from the last time they had been there.
It was a hot day, but there was a pleasant breeze blowing off the water. Ima and Bubby spread a blanket far enough away from the water that it wouldn’t be dangerous for the younger kids, but not too far for the older kids to walk to the dock for the boat ride. Ima started to open an endless supply of plastic containers, with apple slices, carrot sticks, sliced cucumbers, colorful pepper rings and hard-boiled eggs. And the biggest, hugest container was full of Bubby’s special almond coconut macaroons.
Right away Malky and Eli’s hands shot out to take a macaroon, so all either one of them was able to grab was each other’s fingers.
“Move your hand! I was trying to take a macaroon!” yelped Eli.
“You move your hand! I was about to take a macaroon,” Malky shot back.
“I think I made about a million macaroons. There’s plenty for everyone,” said Bubby calmly.
“But I was going to take and Eli put his hand in the way so I couldn’t,” Malky whined.
“Way to twist things around, Malky! I was about to take when you put your hand in the way!” declared Eli.
“I’ve heard enough fighting from you two for one day,” Ima said. “If I hear one more quarrel, you can both stay back here with me and Bubby and baby Rivky and little Shimi while Abba and Zeidy go on the boat with the other children who know how to enjoy the day.”
Eli scowled at Malky, and Malky glared at Eli, but both ate their macaroons without another quarrelsome word.
Zeidy held up a carrot stick. “Bubby’s cookies look delicious, but I have to watch my sugar.” After munching some vegetables, Zeidy looked thoughtfully at Malky and Eli. “You know, you two remind me of myself and Tanta Temi at your age.”
Malky and Eli raised their eyebrows, and waited. It sounded like Zeidy was about to launch into one of his fabulous tales.
“Oh, yes, I think you both even look a lot like Tanta Temi and I did at your age. Temi was eight and I was ten when we took a family trip not so different than this one. We just couldn’t stop bickering and Alte Bubby was losing patience with us. We’d gone to a very large park that day, and Alte Bubby sent us all the way to the other side of the park. She said we could argue all we wanted, but everyone else didn’t have to get a headache listening and we couldn’t come back and join the family unless we were sure we could get along.”
Malky closed her eyes, trying to imagine Zeidy and Tanta Temi as children, and giggled. It was almost impossible to imagine Alte Bubby, whose sweet wrinkled face was framed by a terry cotton turban, as a young, exasperated mother.
“Well, Temi and I dragged ourselves to the edge of a large forest at the other end of the park, quarreling all the while.”
“What were you arguing over?” asked Eli, incredulous at the thought of Zeidy and Tanta Temi fighting.
“A better question would be what we didn’t argue over,” said Zeidy, shaking his head and taking a cucumber stick. “We argued over whose fault it was that we were arguing, who was standing too close to whom, and of course, who reached first for the cookies.”
Malky and Eli glanced at each other and blushed.
“We got to the trees at the edge of the park, and sat down on some big rocks there. We were feeling pretty down about being sent away, when suddenly I spotted what looked like an old clay jug. I jumped to grab it, only for Temi to grab it at the same time.
“ ‘Let go! I saw it first!’
“ ‘No, you let go! I saw it first!’
“ ‘You always think you get everything first just because you’re older,’ said Temi. ‘Hey, wait, there’s something inside.’
“Well, we could hear something bouncing on the inside of the jug, but whatever it was, it was too big to get through the opening of the jug.
“ ‘How do you suppose it got in there?’ asked Temi.
“ ‘I don’t know,’ I answered, ‘but I’m gonna try to get it out.’
“ ‘No, let me try. You’ll break it. Boys only know how to break things,’ said Temi.
“ ‘Only boys know how to do stuff right!’ I shot back. And before you could say ‘sibling rivalry’ we were both grabbing at the jug and it went flying and broke into pieces. We were just about to start blaming each other when we noticed a baseball rolling away from the broken shards of clay.”
“A baseball was inside the jug?” asked Malky.
“That’s right,” replied Zeidy, leaning close and whispering, “an ancient, magical, baseball.”
“Temi and I started chasing that baseball, blaming each other the whole time; who broke the jug, who let the baseball roll away, who should catch it. That baseball seemed to have a mind of its own. Wherever we ran, the baseball seemed to roll away. When we finally did catch it, we were so relieved we forgot to argue. We fell into the grass, hot and sweaty and out of breath. ‘I wish I had an ice cream cone,’ we both said at the same time.”
Zeidy paused, looking straight at Malky and Eli, and continued very slowly. “And at that very moment, an ice cream cone appeared in each of our hands.”
Malky and Eli gasped.
“That’s right,” continued Zeidy. “It was a magic baseball!”
“Well, Temi and I couldn’t believe our eyes. But tasting was believing. We ate those cones in shocked disbelief.”
“ ‘Let’s do it again!’ Temi finally said when we finished our cones. Let me tell you, we tried everything. We held that ball in our right hands, in our left hands, lying in the grass and jumping up and down. No matter what we did, we couldn’t get anything magical to happen.
“So we did what we did best. We started to argue. I got so frustrated that Tanta Temi wasn’t listening to my advice that I said, ‘I hope your hair turns green!’ Well, I guess Temi was feeling the same way about me, because at the exact same moment, she also said, ‘I hope your hair turns green!’ and would you believe it, kids, the very next moment we both had green hair!”
Eli and Malky looked at each other with big round eyes, but didn’t say a word.
“I must admit, it was your Tanta Temi who figured it out first. ‘We have to say the same thing at the same time!’ she cried out. After that, we had a ball with that ball — no pun intended. After we wished our hair un-green, we wished for pizza and soda and uh, well, Alte Bubby just couldn’t understand why we weren’t hungry when we joined the rest of the group, but she did tell us how proud she was that we had learned to get along so well.”
“Where’s the ball now, Zeidy?” Malky asked, looking at her grandfather, eyes full of wonder.
“Can me and Malky try it, or it only works for you and Tanta Temi?” Eli wanted to know.
“Uh, the ball?” said Zeidy shielding his eyes from the sun and looking into the distance. “Your father should be here any minute with the tickets for the boat ride. Let’s make a borei nefashos and help your Ima clean up a little and then start heading towards the dock.”
Abba came into view a few minutes later, waving the tickets in the air. “Shmuli, Ari, Leah, let’s go! Ima, what do you think? Can Malky and Eli come on the boat ride?” Ima looked at Malky and Eli. Malky and Eli looked at Zeidy, and then looked at each other and smiled.
“Yes, I think Malky and Eli will behave beautifully,” Ima said.
As the group followed Abba toward the pier and waved goodbye to Ima, Bubby, Rivky and Shimi, Malky and Eli ran to catch up with Zeidy.
“But Zeidy, what happened to the ball? Can we use it? Do you still have it?” panted Eli, a little out of breath from running.
“Oh, the ball? Well, uh, that was a long time ago, kids. Um, didn’t you learn in school that teva was different before the Mabul? Things just don’t work that way nowadays.”
“So we can’t use the magic baseball anymore?” asked Malky.
“I’m afraid not,” said Zeidy. “But, I’m sure that if you two work together, lots of good things can still happen.”
Malky turned to Eli as they waited on line to board the boat. “Do you think that story Zeidy told us is true?”
“I know Zeidy’s pretty old, but I didn’t know he was alive before the Mabul.”
“Yeah, that is old. But did they have baseball back then?”
“Hmm,” said Eli. “I’m pretty sure baseball has been around forever.”
“Malky, Eli, the two of you had better stop yakking,” their older brother Shmuli chided them. “The captain just told everyone to put on life jackets and board the boat — you’re going to miss the trip.”
Malky and Eli both grabbed the same life jacket on the hook in front of them.
“You can have it,” they both said at the exact same time.
“You first,” said Eli, letting go.
“After you, big brother,” said Malky handing it to her brother, and reaching for a different one.
Abba raised his eyebrows in surprise, but Zeidy just smiled at them and winked.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 806)
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