Why Work Hard?| August 14, 2019
“But, but….” I sounded like the sputtering last cup of soda in a slush machine. “That doesn’t make any sense,” I finally said
You know what makes no sense? When a perfectly smart and capable person decides to do something that makes absolutely no sense. Does that make any sense to you?
Okay, I’ll explain.
It was late August when Penina dropped her news. Actually, she said it so casually and with so little warning, it didn’t feel like news dropping at all.
One minute we were lying in the grass (trying to enjoy every last moment of summer before school ruined all of our fun) and the next minute Penina said, “I took a job as a mother’s helper.”
“Oh,” I said.
I kinda rolled over and propped my head on my hand.
“Yeah,” Penina said.
The grass was short and prickly, and I twisted around to find a comfortable spot.
“Every Sunday,” she said. “From eleven until one.”
I didn’t say that but I did think that!
“What?” I said, the word wobblier but a lot softer than I was thinking it.
“My neighbor, Mrs. Kasner asked me,” Penina said, as if giving up every single Sunday for the next year was absolutely the most normal thing to do. “Her kids are really cute and my mother thought she could really use the help, so I said yes.”
“But—” I said. “But, but….” I sounded like the sputtering last cup of soda in a slush machine. “That doesn’t make any sense,” I finally said.
Penina shrugged. “Sure it does,” she said. Then she looked at her watch and jumped up. “Oops,” she said. “I gotta go. Mrs. Kasner asked me to be at her house at two.”
My mouth twitched. “It’s not Sunday,” I said.
Penina grabbed her book and squinted down at me. “She wants to show me around,” she said. “So I get to know her house and her kids. You know.”
No, I did not know.
I did not know anything at all about what my best friend was doing. Like I said, it made no sense. No sense at all.
Sunday — our one day off, the one day we can just have our own fun, maybe sign up for clubs together, sometimes study together or just sit around and schmooze. And now Penina was taking a job. For hours every single week.
“Why?” I called to her back, but she was halfway down the block at that point and she didn’t turn around.
I pounded my fist into a pile of prickly, stubbly grass.
“Ouch,” I cried.
“Maybe she wants to earn some money?” my mother suggested when I told her about Penina’s ridiculous plan.
“Why would she need that much money?” I asked. “Her parents buy her everything she wants and if she wanted a little more, she could babysit once in a while. She doesn’t have to work every single Sunday.”
“Hmmm,” my mother said. “I’m not sure.”
“I am,” I said, but my mother was already back to chopping carrots for the soup.
My sister Racheli looked up from the magazine she was reading.
“Seriously, Adina,” she said. “I don’t get what you’re so upset about.” She was in that older sister stage, the one where she thought I was ridiculous for making big deals about everything. “It’s not like she’s asking you to help her, and she’s not even giving up her whole Sunday. You’ll still have the whole afternoon to hang around and do whatever it is you two like to do together.” She waved her hand and kinda rolled her eyes before looking back down at her magazine.
I felt heat rise up my face.
“You never understand,” I muttered.
Racheli snorted and I just stomped out of that kitchen before I got angry enough to really scream.
No one understood. Not one person in my family understood why I was so upset. I pounded up the stairs and threw open the door to my room.
Sitting right there on my bed was the reason for the tears that were burning and pricking my eyes.
I was across my room in less than two steps, my hand wrapped around the bright pink flyer that had landed on our doorstep three days before.
Back for our second year! Writing workshop for girls in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades!
Learn techniques. Tell your story. Have fun!
Bring a friend for the most rewarding Sunday experience.
Scrunch. My fingers tightened that paper into a rumpled ball. Bring a friend — ha, ha, ha. Well, that’s what I’d planned to do before Penina got some idea in her head that babysitting two-year-olds was more enjoyable than spending every Sunday morning with her best friend in the world doing the one thing only we would do together.
Writing stories together? That’s not exactly your most typical activity for sixth graders but that’s what me and Penina do. We saw this ad last year and almost counted the minutes until we’d be old enough to join this year.
Well, I had counted the minutes. As for Penina? Clearly, our plans meant absolutely nothing to her and Racheli wanted to know why I was so upset. Ha. As if I’d ever tell her.
I scrunched the paper harder and then shoved it under my shoe just to really get my frustration out. Then I buried it deep in the garbage can and found a book to read. If Penina could just so casually drop me like that, I would find something else to do. Something I could do all my own.
Bright and early the next morning Penina was back in my house. “It’s really boring at my house,” she said as she plopped on our living room couch.
I was still so upset, I barely wanted to look at her.
“Do you want a book to read?” I asked her. Even if she didn’t want to write, she could still enjoy a book someone else had written.
“Nah,” she said. “I’d rather schmooze.” She leaned forward. “I must tell you about those Kasner kids,” she said. “They are the absolute cutest.”
Oh, great. That’s probably what I wanted to talk about then, three days before school started.
I turned my head to the wall; the last thing I wanted Penina to see was me crying.
“I’m really happy I got this job,” Penina said. She was quiet for a moment and then she said, “It gets really hard for me being the youngest and the only child at home. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to cry from boredom.”
I turned my head to look at her. “You could always come here,” I said.
She smiled. Kind of. “Yeah,” I know,” she said. “But I really had to find something that will keep me busy for a long time every Sunday. Otherwise, I could just scream from staring at the walls of my room.”
That minute the front door of my house burst open and three of my sisters came tumbling in.
“We’re baking honey cookies!” they called. “Come help.”
Penina looked at me.
“Come on,” I said. “Let’s go.”
We followed my sisters into the kitchen. The sisters who are always around — the ones who are sometimes bossy, other times annoying, and sometimes the greatest parts of my life.
“I’m so happy I came over today,” Penina said.
I smiled at her.
“Yeah, so am I.”
So that explains Penina’s new job. She wasn’t exactly dropping me or running off; she was doing something to make sure she wouldn’t “cry from boredom every Sunday.” I guess that makes more sense than I realized even if it’s hard for me to understand.
I still wish we could take the course. Maybe I’ll remind Penina about it and see if she can take off for two hours for a few Sundays so we can take it together. Either way I’m really glad she explained herself.
Now I see that I’m doubly lucky. How many girls have a great friend and a house full of sisters who are (mostly) awesome?
There’s two pluses for me.
Until next time,
(Originally Featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 773)
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