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Upper Class: Chapter 36   

Ma’s calmly steaming Libby’s dress like it’s a totally regular day. How does she do that? How is she not panicked?

Why am I nervous? Why does Libby getting engaged make me so nervous that my hands are shaking?

Yocheved tugs on my hair. “Stop moving or I’m going to accidentally burn off a chunk.”

I shriek. “Don’t you dare!”

“So stop moving!”

I will my hands to stop trembling and turn to peek at Ma.

She’s calmly steaming Libby’s dress like it’s a totally regular day. How does she do that? How is she not panicked?

“Are you nervous?” I call out spontaneously to Ma.

She looks around, startled. “Who, me?”

I nod, already regretting the question.

An odd look flashes across her face. A moment later, it’s gone.

“Nervous?” she repeats. “Not really, no. I’m excited for Libby. I’m grateful to the Ribbono shel Olam for His tremendous chesed, and I’m just mentally running through my teaching rotation to make sure I have a substitute for the day of the vort.”

Oh. Yeah, me, too.

Yocheved tugs my head back into position. I look at her in the mirror as Ma leaves the room abruptly, muttering to herself about paper goods and fruit platters.

“I think you’re getting hit with the same realization we all had at one point or another,” she says, deftly waving my hair with a flick of her wrist.

I raise a cynical eyebrow, a trick I’ve mastered after many hours in the mirror.  “Oh, yeah? And what’s that?”

She smirks. “That Ma is a much better person than any of us can ever hope to be.”

The l’chayim is everything: beautiful, emotional, inspiring, and altogether not regular hectic. And through the craziness, as I yell and shriek and hug people, Yocheved’s words stay with me. Ma is a really good person. Why is that news to me? I mean, yes, as kids, we just view our parents as Ma and Ta, right, just larger-than-life people who take care of us. But I consider myself to be a pretty mature person these days. So why have I not thought about this before, the idea that my mother is a person unto herself?

I look around.

Libby is glowing, Yocheved is smiling, Miri and Sima are partying, and my outfit is totally cute.

It’s a pretty perfect night.

I’m beyond exhausted at school the next day, but it’s fun, telling everyone about the l’chayim, sharing photos on my camera of Libby and Yoni.

I think every single teacher has come over to me, mainly because they’re all understandably obsessed with Libby.

So when Morah Kaufman comes over to me, I don’t think anything of it. I just pull out my camera, ready to share some snaps, when I actually tune into the words she’s saying.

“…the ice cream store on Sunday?”

I blink through my exhausted stupor, the hallways coming back into focus with a crash. “Sorry?”

Morah Kaufman isn’t fazed. “I asked if you were at the ice cream store on Sunday?”

I try to think back to Sunday. The l’chayim had been Monday… Sunday was a year ago… Sunday… Oh. Oh boy. I’d been buying napkins for the l’chayim and had bumped into Shan, so we sat down in Scoops of Cream for a milkshake.

“Yes,” I say, my voice trembling.

Morah Kaufman looks at me. “It’s not like you, Naomi. To be at such a scene…” And she claps me warmly on the shoulder, murmurs, “Mazel tov,” and hurries away.

I’m not going to get into seminary. That’s it, I blew it. I tried to be a good friend, to give Shan time and attention and understanding, but now people are talking. What am I doing? I feel exposed, wronged, angry.

All the joy of the previous night is gone, siphoned away like helium from a burst balloon.

Debbi comes up behind me, singing Od Yishama. I grab her and pull her into the bathroom.

“You know I don’t like Shan,” she says evenly after I tell her what happened.

I glare at her. “Thank you, that’s very helpful.”

“Let me finish. I don’t like Shan, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have your parents’ backing to be a good friend to Shan as long as you use your seichel. Sitting in Scoops of Cream is totally okay, it probably just felt like a scene to Morah Kaufman because Shan’s noisy friends were there. Maybe next time don’t sit. Or tell her you’re running. Or invite her over to you. Or anything, really. But you don’t have to stop being nice to her and you’re not getting expelled. So relax, please.”

I wipe my forehead. “Are you sure? Because I think I need to throw up.”

Debbi smacks my shoulder. “Yuck, do not throw up, please. Just relax. And also, can we discuss Libby and Mr. Perfect instead of Shan politics?”

Shan politics. Ha. She’d love that. I remind myself to tell her, decide it might be rechilus, and scratch that off my to-do list.

I whip out my camera like the good friend I am and we analyze pictures together until the bell rings to go down to cheder tefillah.

And when I daven, I send up a tefillah that Hashem guard my reputation and keep me safe from influences.

You know, just some cautionary measures.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Cozey, Issue 983)

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