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Trust Fund: Chapter 25

“Ma, about Dassi. You know she wasn’t really having work done, right?”



he beautiful engraved front door seemed to be mocking her.

Why did she feel like she was trespassing? Libby knocked on the door twice, then pushed it open. “Camille?”

The old maid came hurrying over.

“Mrs. Libby, I was just coming to answer,” she said reprovingly.

Libby smiled tightly. “That’s okay, I can let myself in.”

Camille smiled back even tighter. “Of course, Mrs. Libby. I’ll tell Mrs. Frankel you are here.”

Now Libby was genuinely annoyed. She wasn’t a social caller; she was the daughter-in-law of 16 years.

“Oh, please don’t bother, I’ll just go tell Mom I’m here myself.” And she brushed up the staircase before the maid could utter a word of protest.

Akiva’s mother had generously offered for Libby to come pick up the gold coat rack from the basement suite; Libby had realized it would be the perfect touch to her showroom, and no one was staying in the suite now that Menashe and Dassi had moved into their palace.

“Mom?” she called softly. She was torn between wanting to show she belonged in her in-laws’ home and feeling very out of place in the giant house in the middle of the day. She followed the sound of voices into her mother-in-law’s large, carpeted closet room.

Mom was sitting at the vanity, her beloved sheitelmacher, Ronit, standing behind her. The blow dryer was on, which was probably why neither woman heard Libby. Smiling, Libby hurried forward, only to pause when she heard her own name.

“...Libby and the kids… blow blow…. Entirely ridiculous… blow blow… mortified in my entire life! Blow blow… sitting up there, banging those sticks around like he was in an after-school band.”

Ronit switched to the curling iron at that point. Libby knew she should knock on the door and alert them to her presence, but Mom was still speaking.

“I’m sure he thinks it’s all very amusing. No malicious intent, I know that, Ronit. He’s very sweet, my son. But how, after all these years, does he not realize that his actions reflect directly on his father and me?”

Ronit shook her head, curtain bangs flying. “Kids never really think of their parents as people, you know? No matter how old they get.”

Her mother-in-law shook her head remorsefully. “You’re right, I guess. But I can’t say it didn’t hurt. He was up there, laughing and singing, and I can promise you we didn’t pass through his mind for a nanosecond.

“Never mind that half of his father’s contacts were present at the time and his father was practically purple with mortification. It’s like ever since he, uh, broke away, he thinks he’s severed the familial bond.” She paused to peer into the mirror.

“Well, this looks fabulous, Ronit, darling. You make everything better.”

Libby bit her lip as she hovered behind the door. Had she forgotten, at some point during this whole saga, that her mother-in-law was, well, a mother? A woman with feelings? And whether Libby agreed with those feelings or not, she knew that they deserved to be acknowledged.

Enough subterfuge.

Straightening her shoulders, she called out loudly. “Mom? It’s Libby! Just popping in for that coat rack you said I could borrow?”

She knocked and then pushed open the closet door. “Mom?”

“Libby!” her mother-in-law startled, then composed herself, as a good Frankel does.

“Darling, how are you? Ronit, you remember my daughter-in-law?”

Ronit waved a brush. “Of course! Libby, how are you? I love your wig, who is it from?”

They dabbled in wig talk for a few minutes and then Ronit excused herself for another appointment.

Libby found herself alone with her mother-in-law.

She quickly reviewed proper decorum for casual closet meetings, and decided to throw proper decorum to the wind.

“Sorry about that whole drum solo thing,” she burst out.

Mrs. Frankel would’ve raised an eyebrow if she could. “Whatever do you mean?”

Libby, to her credit, did not roll her eyes at this sudden amnesia. “Oh, just that Akiva was swept away in the excitement of the Abrams’ bar mitzvah, and I’m sure it was slightly jarring to you and Daddy to see him pounding away on stage like that.”

Mrs. Frankel senior looked at Libby in her mirror, then turned around to face her.

“You really do look lovely today, Libby. That color suits you.”

And while Libby waved a hand modestly, she understood that she was forgiven — at least for the moment. Akiva, on the other hand, seemed to have some serious work ahead of him.

“I left the coat rack and some other things you might be able to use at the garage door. Come, I’ll show you.”

Libby followed her mother-in-law out of the closet and back down the steps, through the cavernous kitchen, and toward the garage. She stopped, hand fluttering to her heart. Her mother-in-law had gathered a whole collection of items from around the house in the cream and gold color scheme of Libby’s showroom. Libby bent to pick up a cream, knotted throw pillow. “Mom! Thank you so much for this. These are going to add so much to the display. I really appreciate this.”

Her mother-in-law smiled, a  genuine, crease-inducing smile. “I’m glad, Libby. I hope to come see your shop one of these days soon.”

And maybe that’s why Libby felt emboldened to open her mouth.

“Ma, about Dassi. You know she wasn’t really having work done, right?”

Her mother-in-law tottered for a second, then took a deep breath.

“Yes, Libby, I’m perfectly aware.”

Libby clutched the pillow to her chest, protecting herself. She was a strong, independent woman, yes, but facing the truth head-on with her mother-in-law was uncharted territory.

“Oh. Okay. Because Dassi doesn’t realize that. She thinks, uh, that no one really cares that she’s going through a hard time.”

Mrs. Frankel patted her freshly blown wig.

“Well, that’s ridiculous. I  sponsored an afternoon nanny and a night nurse when she was gone. I hired them myself. If I gave Menashe the funds, he’d just invest them.”

Her face held an indulgent smile when speaking of her youngest. Libby felt ill.

“That’s so nice, Ma, wow, I hadn’t realized. But, I think, because no one is saying anything, Dassi feels… isolated. And I’m sure that’s not good for her, uh, recovery.”

Mrs. Frankel’s face grew cold. “Libby, I’m sorry. That’s all I’m going to discuss of Dassi’s private matters.”

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 993)

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