Recap: Yehudis’ father tells her they are moving to Marietta, Ohio, as he was offered a special research opportunity as part of a sabbatical. Not only will she have to miss senior year at her Bais Yaakov, but her grandmother, who is very critical and difficult, will be coming with them and will be living in the same house.
I strolled next door to Tema’s house and knocked.
“Hey!” Tema was wearing an apron and holding a pot.
“What’s wrong. Come in.”
I stepped inside. Tema’s four little brothers were tussling on the floor, rolling around like little puppies.
The table was set.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt your dinner.”
“Hey, come upstairs. We can talk. My father won’t be home for a while.”
I followed her up to her room with the pink-flowered wallpaper. Her bookshelves were packed with her favorite books and there were s’farim there, too. On the top of her bookshelf there were photos of me and Tema in school plays, in camp, and at each of our houses.
I plopped onto her bed and to my utter embarrassment burst into tears.
“What happened? What’s wrong?” Tema was patting my shoulder. “Tell me.”
“It’s awful.” I swallowed a sob. “My father got this grant to go to Marietta College and work there and do research and we’re going to go live in West Virginia and I’m going to the Bais Yaakov there for the year.”
Tema froze. “No, Its eighth grade.”
I nodded trying not to burst out crying again.
“Can’t he defer it until—”
“No, and––” I took a deep breath. “And Grandma Henny is coming with us.”
“Oh, in a different house?”
I shook my head.
Tema shot me a sympathetic look.
“I just can’t believe my father is doing this to me.”
“He’s not trying to hurt you, Yehudis. He’s doing something he needs to do professionally.”
“Well, he should think of his only daughter.” As I said the words, a question—the terrible secret question that comes to my mind sometimes, surfaced. I quickly drowned it out.
“Listen, we will be best friends forever even if you move to the moon,” she said.
“I might as well be moving to the moon.”
Tema sat next to me and I saw there were tears in her eyes. “I’m so sorry, Yehudis, but listen: It’s not forever. It’s just one year.”
“It’s eighth grade. It’s our senior year. We won’t all be in the same class ever again.”
Tema gasped. “The yearbook!”
I hadn’t thought of that. I was supposed to be the editor of the yearbook. I thought of how excited I was when Mrs. Margolis chose me and how Tema and I celebrated.
Tema was quiet. There was nothing to say to that.
“I’ll ask my parents. You could live here for the year.”
I shook my head. “I can’t. Aba needs me.”
“Well, I’ll come visit and you’ll come when there’s break and we’ll talk every night on the phone.”
I sighed. “Thank you,” I whispered.
Moving day dawned, taunting me with birdsong and sunshine. My heart felt like thunder and rain. Tema left for overnight camp the week before, so there was no one to say good-bye. Grandma Henny sat on the easy chair in the living room next to her two overstuffed suitcases. Even though we were leaving all our furniture and planning to return, I felt this empty feeling like even our house felt we were leaving. Aba rented a U-Haul to transport clothing, linens and towels and pots, pans and dishes. I dreaded the seven-hour drive.
“Can I sit in front?” I’d asked Aba.
“Sweetie, I wish you could. I know you get carsick, but we have to let Grandma sit in front.”
I’d called some of my other friends before they left for camp. Esty and Reina said they’d write and call.
Aba handed me a pile of towels to bring to the U-Haul. “Did you call her yet?”
“Hudi, you have to tell her. She needs time to find––”
“I will,” I said not so respectfully. I hated the phone call I had to make. Mrs. Margolis, hi, the job I always wanted – my dream for this year is melting away like a popped bubble. I can’t be editor of the yearbook.
Just imagining the phone call made me want to cry.
“Get it over with,” Aba called over his shoulder.
I took my phone out. There was a message from Tema. She loved her bunk and the girls were behaving and she missed me.
I took out the paper with Mrs. Margolis’ number, scribbled on it, and I punched in the numbers with trembling fingers.
“Hi, Mrs. Margolis. This is Yehudis Strollinger.”
“Hello, Yehudis, So nice to hear from you. You must have read my mind. I was just going to email you. I have some ideas for themes for the yearbook. How is your summer going?”
I swallowed like I was swallowing some bitter medicine. “Mrs. Margolis, I have to tell you something.”
She rattled on. “I was thinking it would be nice to emphasize the emunah theme. Hashgachah pratis stories would be nice, and I love the sketches that Tema sent in. Don’t you? What are your thoughts?”
I took a deep breath. “Those ideas are great but—”
“Now I need you to start gathering pieces from the girls as soon as school begins because—”
“Excuse me, Mrs. Margolis. There’s something I have to tell you.”
“I’m not going to be in school this year. We’re moving to West Virginia for the year.”
There was a long beat.
“This is sudden. What happened?”
I explained about Aba’s sabbatical. There was a cold edge to her voice when she hung up and wished me well in clipped tones.
I felt like I’d just lost a close friend. She was obviously angry at me. Hot tears splashed my cheek.
I wished I could call Tema but she was in camp.
Aba rushed into the room. “Okay, Hudi, we’re ready to go.” He turned towards Grandma Henny. “Mom, come I’ll help you into the car.”
Aba was busy with Grandma so he didn’t notice my tears. I wiped them away with my sleeve and steeled myself for the long trip ahead.
In my small bag, I carried my siddur, my T’hilim, my journal, and my Snapfish book of photos that Tema gave me for my birthday.
We piled into the car with the U-Haul attached behind us. Aba turned on the car.
I gazed at our house. I wanted to wave at it. My house felt like a good friend and I wasn’t sure when I’d be back again. I pulled out my journal. I had a lot of thoughts and feelings to record.
We passed familiar landmarks like the post office, my school, and the park, and then we headed towards the highway. Aba put on a shiur and Grandma dozed in the front seat.
After a while, I put away my journal. The motion of the car made my stomach too unsettled to write anymore. I tried not to think of Mrs. Margolis’ clipped goodbye.
We’d been driving along for an hour when Aba pulled into a rest area for gas. “Do you want to get out and stretch, Hudi?”
I opened the car door. Sunshine warmed my face and head.
Aba was stretching. “Hudi, I made an appointment for tomorrow for you to have your interview at the Bais Yaakov of West Virginia.”
“I have to have an interview?”
Aba nodded. “It’s just a formality. I’m sure you are accepted.”
The thought of going to the new school made my stomach knot.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers 2020), 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). Fiction serial in The Jewish Press – Falling Star (2019), article in the Winter 2019 Jewish Action Magazine. She contributes to the community column for the Queens Jewish Link and writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivos and teaches creative writing to students of all ages.