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Trust Fund: Chapter 21

She studied Deena. Her daughter looked angry and beautiful and very… regular. No uppity princess here



his is the song that never endssss. It just goes on and on my friennnnds!”

Libby smirks and looks over at Akiva. She’d taught the kids the age-old camp cheer around an hour ago, and it was still going strong, although she might have just heard Deena threaten to kill the next person who lustily sang the chant.

“Ooookay,” she broke in. “Next song! Who knows 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall?”

They don’t know it. Akiva taught this one with gusto, she closed her eyes.

She might be crazy. She might have totally and completely lost her mind. In fact, she’s pretty sure she has.

Road trips were the bane of her existence growing up. Everyone around her was going to sleepaway camp or Eretz Yisrael or Europe, and there was her family, packed like sardines in the old maroon Toyota minivan, off to Fire Island or New Hampshire to some low-budget motel room for the nine of them. But her parents had never done a Succos road trip; they were smarter than she was, that’s for sure.

“The sechach is poking me again,” Deena said through gritted teeth.

Libby sighed. The pop-up succah was turning into a bit of a hassle.

“It’s okay, guys, we’re almost at the rest stop. We’ll stretch, check out some postcards, have a bite, and then head back into the car,” she said brightly.

There was silence and then Binny asked, “What’s a postcard?”

She looked at Akiva. “We’re old,” she shared.

He nodded, a smile playing around his lips. “Whaaat? I can’t hear you, Thelma, speak up!”

The kids started cracking up. Libby had to know: “Why are we changing my name to Thelma when I get old?”

Akiva pulled into the rest stop and gave a light beep on the horn. “Wise question, wife, wise question. Okay, everyone out!”

Everyone stumbled out, covered in chip crumbs, hair a mess. Libby was proud of them.

One person remained in the car. Libby poked her head in, motioning that Akiva should take everyone else inside.

“Deens?” Heaven grant her patience. “Hon, you coming? Let’s buy a soda?”

That brought on the sarcasm thick and fast. “A soda? Wow, that’s sooo exciting. Lani and Sheva are in Cancun, with Jet Skiing and beaches and private concerts, and I get a soda. Whoopee, lucky me.”

Make that a lot of patience. She got back into the car and settled herself carefully next to Deena in the middle, closing the door behind her. The car was hot and smelled like Super Snacks.

She studied Deena. Her daughter looked angry and beautiful and very… regular. No uppity princess here. Just a regular 14-year-old, wearing a pink sweatshirt and a black skirt. No European linen pieces for weekdays, no $300 zip-ups.

Libby closed her eyes. She missed it, too. That was the truth. And there was no reason Deena couldn’t know that.

“It’s hard,” she admitted, eyes still closed.

“We changed our lives so abruptly. One day, we lived in one reality, and almost the next, everything was different. That must have been really hard for you.”

She heard a sniff. Cracking open one eye, she peeked at her eldest. Was strong, defiant Deena… crying?

“It was,” Deena whispered. “I don’t think it was fair.”

Libby tries to hold on, but the carefreeness of the drive was slowly draining away.

“Deena,” she said, and she put her hand on her daughter’s arm.

Deena just looked out the window.

Libby tries again. “Deena, you might be right. Maybe it wasn’t fair to you. You probably needed more time to process, more time to come to terms with such a huge change. I know I definitely could have used more time.” Like another ten years, maybe.

Deena finally looked at her. “Ma, are you even happy? I mean, you liked those things. The shopping and trips and photos. You always seemed so into them, they were like the things that made you happiest.”

Ouch. From the mouth of babes. Were those the things that made her happiest? Wait, this is about Deena’s feelings right now. She’ll revisit her own later.

“I’m happy because now I spend more time with you all and with Tatty,” Libby said, looking Deena straight in the eyes.

And for the first time since they had piled into the van two hours before, Deena smiled.


The hotel room was decent. She navigated around Binny and Mali who were sprawled on the floor, checked on Eliana, tucked on the recliner, and peeked at Deena asleep on the couch.

Akiva was on the small patio-turned-succah, making his slow way through a giant bag of Jalepeno chips. Gross. She grabbed her cashmere throw from the suitcase and went to sit next to him. He held out the bag in greeting; she wrinkled her nose.

“No, thank you.”

He smiled and pulled out a bag of Le Caramelle chocolate peanut clusters.

“No, you didn’t.”

He nodded regally, potato chip crumbs at the corners of his mouth. “Oh, but I did.”

She giggled. “Well, then, do I invite the Ushpizin to share in my $20 chocolates?”

He laughed. “And why not?”

She stood up, invited Moshe Rabbeinu to join them, then curled up again with her Belgian chocolates.

Akiva looked at her. “So, I’ve been meaning to ask, what happened with Deena earlier?”

Libby wanted to wave his question away, to allow the rich chocolate to flavor the moment, but she was committed to honesty. She looked her husband in the eye.

“She’s having a hard time. We all are.”

Akiva nodded, then tilted his head back to catch the last bit of chips from the bottom of the bag.

He didn’t say another word, but the succah patio was suddenly colder than it had been before.


“But, why?” Deena asked. Libby smirked. Her eldest was trying a little too hard to be obnoxious; it was obvious she was enjoying herself.

“Why, what, Hon?”

“Why is it called Minne-Ha-Ha?”

Akiva came up behind them. “Because you have so much fun, you end up saying Ha ha the entire time.”

Libby and Deena looked at him. Libby cleared her throat. “Akiva, I hate to break it to you, but you just made a dad joke.”

He grabbed his head in exaggerated anguish. “No!”

Deena couldn’t help herself; she giggled.

Libby watched Akiva as they boarded the ferry. Who was this man? The one who ate spicy chips and got their grump of a daughter to laugh and sing car songs? Libby had gone to camps and schools with the rest of society, but until yeshivah gedolah, Akiva had attended private schools and camps for the children of society’s elite, waving the careful banner of the Frankel name. When had he learned to be silly or messy or so… relaxed?

She’d liked Akiva of the past 15 years. Truly. She’d married him. But this Akiva was different.

And she really liked him, too. Maybe even a bit more.

Last night’s non-conversation seemed trivial in the daylight.

And she looked at him, balancing Mali on his shoulders, her life vest smacking him in the head, and for a brief, fleeting moment, she saw it. The life Akiva was trying to live, the life he wanted for them. She felt the simplicity of it all so near. No ridiculous, over-the-top familial expectations. No pressure to hide your likes or dislikes because it might embarrass the patriarchy or ruin a business deal….

Mali clambered down; they stood next to each other, shoulder to shoulder, watching the sun throw diamond beams on the azure waves.

“Maybe it’s the perfection of this moment,” Akiva said to her, breaking the silence, “Or maybe it’s the fresh air. But I’ve never felt this way before, Libby. Thank you for giving me this.”

She didn’t look at him, mainly because they were in public, and there was no way she was going to cry right now. Even if her mascara was waterproof.

“You’re welcome,” she said simply.

And then they bobbed up and down in contented silence, while Binny shouted “Ha ha,” over and over into the lake.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 989)

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