Recap: Bayla receives a letter from her family in Poland. One line in the letter worries her. They’re nervous about a possible attack from Germany.
Friday night, Tante Aimee lit the candles in the large formal dining room. The long table was set with a lace cloth and sparkling china dishes. Cut red roses from the garden sat in a crystal vase on the table, scenting the air.
Sophie and I davened Kabalas Shabbos together and sang the t’hilim.
It was beautiful here, and I tried not to think of home. I kept picturing Bubby and Zeidy coming over and Papa walking in from shul, Mama’s homemade challah, and the chicken soup simmering.
What was Mimi doing right now? Was she thinking of me?
After davening, Sophie said, “Do you want to go outside? It’s a beautiful night and Tattie and your brother won’t be back from shul for a while.”
I pushed her chair outside. The sky was splattered with stars. I pointed out some of the constellations that Zeidy had taught me.
She asked me to tell her about Bubby and Zeidy. “I haven’t seen them in so long.”
“Bubby is always knitting dresses for everyone.”
“Zeidy loves nature. He knows all the butterfly species. He’s always teaching us new things and helping us see the wonders in our world. He says Hashem sends us messages every minute.”
“I remember you said your mother paints watercolors. Do you ever do that?”
“Oh no.” I just remembered the gift Mama had wrapped so carefully and put into my suitcase. “You just reminded me that I have a painting from Mama for your family. I forgot to take it out of my suitcase.”
We spotted Sophie’s father and Shimon Zev strolling towards us. There was another man with them.
Sophie’s father strode over and lifted her into the air. “Good Shabbos, Meidele.” He turned to me, “Good Shabbos, Bayla.”
Shimon Zev said, “This is Mr. Penner. He’s the man I told you met our family and brought us the letter.” I thanked him, and with Feter Dan leading the way pushing Sophie’s chair, we headed inside for the Shabbos meal.
Feter Dan and the guest, Mr. Penner, sang “Shalom Aleichem.” Shimon Zev followed along. It was a different tune than what we sang at our house. Then they sang “Eishes Chayil.” Feter Dan and Tante Aimee both blessed Sophie. Then they surprised me by offering me and Shimon Zev a brachah. Then they said,” and a brachah to our guest Mr. Penner.” I was touched that they’d given us a brachah.
Feter Dan shared several divrei Torah. The maid and butler came in and out with each course. It was very formal.
At one point, Mr. Penner said, “I really hope Poland can defeat Germany. “The Luftwaffe is just one part of the German Wehrmacht military forces and it’s very strong.”
My uncle interrupted, “These come with chariots and these with horses, but our strength is HaKadosh Baruch Hu.”
Mr. Penner nodded.
The next morning, I rose early. Shimon Zev was there learning in the dining room. No one else was up. He looked up when I walked into the room.
“How is it going with Sophie?” he asked.
“I don’t want to interrupt you, but could we speak about it in the garden?”
“I’ll just finish up something here. Yes.”
We headed outside. “I need your advice. I don’t know how to help Sophie and I only have one more week before we go back.”
“Does she talk about her injury to you? Do you know how it happened?”
“That’s just it. She won’t talk about it. If I ask anything or suggest exercising to get better, she shuts down. It’s like I can’t talk about it at all with her.”
We were strolling around the garden and Shimon Zev stopped. “I wish I knew the magic words for you to say. I think you just have to be her friend. A lot of friendship can happen in one week. When she knows how much you care about her and love her, she’ll eventually open up and tell you what happened, and then if she can talk about it that will be a start towards her healing.”
“That makes sense. Thanks. Maybe you should become a doctor.”
Shimon Zev laughed. “No, I’ll stick to learning.”
We headed back into the house and I felt so much lighter.
Later, we strolled towards shul. Tante Aimee hooked her arm in mine and Nanette was pushing Sophie’s wheelchair.
The sunshine sparkled on the trees and flowers. We passed beautifully manicured gardens of tulips and irises and peonies and lawns filled with lavender asters and white and yellow daisies.
Sophie called back to me. “Can you push me now?”
Nanette backed away and I took over. “You can go back, Nanette,” Tante Aimee said. “Please set up the table with the white china.”
Tante Aimee asked a man who was in the hallway to get her husband. Feter Dan carried Sophie’s wheelchair up the steps to the women’s section. I pushed Sophie down an aisle.
A girl with shoulder length brown hair and large brown eyes looked up and whispered, “Good Shabbos, Sophie.”
Sophie’s cheeks reddened, and she turned away without answering the girl.
She motioned me to keep going. When we’d found seats towards the front, near the m’chitzah, Sophie whispered in my ear. “I want to go back. I can’t stay here.”
“I just can’t stay.”
I whispered to Tante Aimee and she said I could push Sophie home. I had to get Feter Dan’s attention to carry her back down.
I was disappointed. I had wanted to daven in shul. As I pushed her along, I asked, “What’s wrong? Why couldn’t you stay in shul?”
Sophie was crying softly. “I’m sorry. I know you wanted to stay but I just couldn’t stay.”
I was tempted to ask more, but I sensed that it was better not to push. When she was ready, she would tell me. I thought of what Shimon Zev said.
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.