Recap: Papa left for Paris. Bayla worries, knowing things are unsettled in Europe now, but she doesn’t know the whole story.
The next night, Bubby and Zeidy knocked on the door.
We all rushed to greet them when they stepped into the house. Bubby was wearing one of her hand-knitted, dark blue dresses. Her blue eyes sparkled as she reached out to hug each of us. “You girls grow every time I see you.” Fraidy toddled over to her and Bubby lifted her into the air.
She turned towards me. “I’m knitting a special dress for you, Bayla, for your birthday.”
“Can I see it?”
“On your birthday.”
We hugged. “I have to wait till then?”
“October will be here before you know it,” she said.
Bubby headed to the kitchen to help Mama. “When will Yosef be back?” I heard her ask.
Zeidy asked Mimi to play her flute. She went upstairs to get it.
I began setting the table with our best china. We always used it when Bubby and Zeidy came. I heard Mama’s voice from the kitchen. “He’ll be back in a few days.”
“It’s not so safe to travel now. He shouldn’t have gone,” Bubby said.
Mama answered but though I strained to hear her I couldn’t make out her answer.
Why wasn’t it safe now to travel? What did Bubby mean?
Mimi came downstairs with her flute and she set up the flute stand.
Zeidy nodded towards me. “Bayla, please accompany your sister.”
I sat down dutifully. “Which piece, Mimi?”
“Let’s play the Shabbos nigunim.”
I took out the music and began the introduction.
Mimi’s clear silver notes sang out so beautifully. I felt like I was listening to a bird singing.
Zeidy clapped and clapped. “Beautiful, girls. Beautiful! You two are so talented!”
I appreciated his accolades, but I knew the real talent was Mimi and her incredible flute.
Bubby stepped into the living room. “Beautiful!” Bubby echoed. “Come to the table.”
Mama and Bubby brought in a big bowl of meat dumplings and my favorite dish, soft dough filled with rose petal jam and coated in orange glaze. Mimi brought in a platter of carrots and potatoes.
Bubby poured black tea into each of our cups.
“You come as a guest and you are working,” Mama scolded.
Bubby laughed. “I don’t want to be a guest in my daughter’s house, thank you.”
Mama and Bubby exchanged smiles.
Mama said, “We went to the zoo on Sunday. It was so beautiful. I saw my friend Antonina.”
“Ah, the zoo.” Zeidy finished a bite of dumpling. “Those zookeepers are special people. I knew Jan’s father. They are talented at what they do but most important, they have good hearts. Jan’s family was always helping the poor in our neighborhood.”
“But I don’t think they’re Jewish,” Mimi said.
“They are still kind.” Bubby clucked her tongue. “True Jews are known for being kind but there are righteous gentiles. I pray we won’t ever have to depend on them, but it’s important to know they exist.”
After dinner, Mama brought in a fresh pan of cinnamon honey cake. Zeidy shared a d’var Torah.
After bentching, Zeidy took us out to the garden. It was still bright and sunny outside. “Let’s go watch the butterflies,” he said.
It was something we often did with Zeidy. He knew all the species and where they came from. “That’s a Green-veined White butterfly.” He pointed to another. “That one is a Pea Blue butterfly.”
“They’re so beautiful,” Mimi said. “I hate when people capture them. They need to be flying free.”
I watched a Monarch butterfly land on a poppy.
Zeidy pointed to a nearby tree branch. “Look, girls, a white dove.”
We stood perfectly still, watching it until it flew away.
“You know the Jewish people are likened to the gentle dove.” Zeidy was thoughtful. “There’s a quote my father used to teach me from the Talmud: ‘Just as the wings of the dove save the dove, so does the merit of mitzvos save the Jewish people.’” Zeidy shook his head. “Today, in our time, we need those merits. May Hashem protect us!”
I didn’t like the worried look in his eye. I tugged on his hand. “Let’s watch the sunset, Zeidy.”
Later, when stars splattered the sky, I asked, “Come show us the constellations.” Zeidy pointed out constellations. “Over there’s the Big Dipper.”
“It’s so beautiful out here with all the stars,” Mimi said.
“Hashem’s canvas, all those constellations,” Zeidy said.
“That’s a good line for a poem,” I said.
Bubby and Mama were sitting on the couch. Bubby was knitting, and Mama was doing one of her needlepoints.
The radio was on in the background. “Did you see a lot of butterflies?” Mama asked.
Just then, an animated voice exploded from the radio in angry bursts. It filled the living room with a noxious incessant roar. Mama rose abruptly and switched off the radio.
“Who was that?” I asked. There was something frightening about the voice and the way Mama’s face had paled.
Mama looked at Bubby.
“It’s an evil, evil man,” Bubby whispered. “Hashem should protect us.”
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.