Recap: Bayla is asked to go to Paris to help lift her cousin Sophie’s spirits. Sophie was in an accident and needs encouragement to exercise so she will be able to walk again. Bayla doesn’t want to leave home and go so far away and she hopes her parents will understand.
That night, I slept in the living room. Mama didn’t like me sleeping with Mimi when she was sick. I woke early, when the sun filtered through Mama’s white voile drapes and a soft breeze lifted them slightly. I heard starlings trilling outside. Papa had already left for shul and Mama was in the kitchen, warming breakfast. I smelled the fresh bread baking. The scent of cinnamon and hot cakes filled our house.
I washed and davened. I asked Hashem to help me explain to my parents why I couldn’t go. Please, Hashem, make it clear to everyone why I should stay home. Then I joined Mama in the kitchen.
“How’s Mimi?” I asked.
Fraidy was sitting in her high chair, eating oatmeal. “Baaya!” she said.
Mama brought me a cup of hot cocoa. “Baruch Hashem, the fever broke. She’s sleeping peacefully. Let’s let her sleep. No one should go in the room now.”
Mama brought me a plate of hotcakes drizzled with maple syrup. The smell was heavenly.
“Have you thought about your trip to Tante Aimee?”
I suddenly wasn’t so hungry. I started to cut one of the hot cakes. “Mama, I don’t want to go. I will miss everyone too much. “I … I haven’t seen Sophie or Tante Aimee in such a long time. I feel shy to go and I really don’t want to go so far away…”
Mama put her arm around me. “We won’t force you to go, but it would be a huge mitzvah.”
I took a few bites of hot cake and asked to be excused. Mama didn’t comment on the uneaten food. “Please go to Bubby’s after you wash your dish. I need some pink yarn.”
I held Fraidy’s hand and headed down the block. Fraidy kept stopping along the way to ask me what things were. “That’s a corn poppy,” I said. She leaned over and smelled the cerulean poppy. “What’s that?” She pointed to a red squirrel darting up a birch tree.
Finally, we reached Bubby and Zeidy’s house. It was a small brick house with tulips surrounding the front and a little white picket fence. It was the house where Mama and her four brothers grew up.
I lifted Fraidy to kiss the mezuzah. Bubby greeted us with a huge hug. “Hi, girls. Come in the kitchen. I have a fresh batch of lace cookies and some warm tea.”
I was a little hungry, since I hadn’t been able to eat much at breakfast. My stomach was still knotted from worrying about what Papa wanted me to do.
Fraidy ran into the den to play with Bubby’s cat Silky.
Bubby handed me a ball of pink yarn. “So, how’s Mimi feeling?”
“Baruch Hashem, the fever is gone.”
“Baruch Hashem.” Bubby studied me with her sharp blue eyes. “What’s on your mind, Bayla?”
I blurted that I didn’t want to go to Tante Aimee in France, but my parents wanted me to go.
Bubby sipped her tea. “That’s a big trip for you to do. Why do they want you to go?”
I told her about Sophie.
“Did you say that Shimon Zev would go with you on the train?”
I didn’t add that he said he would stay there and learn in yeshivah for a while until we went back. I didn’t want to add anything that would make it sound like it was okay to go.
“You’re afraid you’ll be homesick?”
“Well, I understand that. But, I want to explain something to you, love.”
I could tell Bubby was getting ready to tell me a story.
“So, a long time ago, when your father was close to your age, he had just read his bar mitzvah portion in shul, and the next week his father suddenly died. His mother was left with five boys and no father. His mother, your grandmother Sylvia, had married later in life. She didn’t marry until she was 32 because she had to help her parents with their business and her father had been ill. She had waited so long for happiness, and then Hashem took it away so early. We can’t understand Hashem’s ways. She was totally devastated. She was left in her mid-40s with no means of support and five children to feed.
“A kind second-cousin offered her work as a real estate broker and she happily accepted the job. He was 15 years older than her, and he was a widower. He admired her spirit and he grew to love her and so they married. They were blessed with a baby girl, whom they named Aimee. Everyone doted on Aimee. Your father was thrilled to have a baby half-sister. When your father was in his late teens, his stepfather died, and his mother became ill shortly after that. She asked your father as the eldest child to promise that he would always take care of Aimee. Your father promised solemnly. He loved his mother dearly and he wanted to honor that promise.“
Bubby stopped speaking and took another sip of tea. I put down the lace cookie I was munching.
“So, that’s why Papa wants me to go so much.”
Bubby nodded. “Your Papa is a man of his word and he has strong loyalty to his family.”
I took the pink yarn from Bubby. “Thanks, Bubby.” I kissed her cheek. She knew I was thanking her for more than the cookie and the yarn.
Fraidy ran ahead as we headed home, and I knew now what I had to do. Hashem had sent me a perfectly clear message. It wasn’t what I wanted but it was perfectly clear.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in various magazines including A Bridge in Time, historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). She writes the community column for The Queens Jewish Link and she writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivahs and she teaches creative writing to students of all ages.