Recap: Bayla, Mimi, and Sophie are getting ready to go away from the constant bombing in England. Tante Aimee has a distant relative there who will take the girls in exchange for their working on the farm.
It was September. The fall days were splashed with sunlight, but bombings had become so frequent, day and night. The new normal was rushing to the shelter. Signs were posted on the shul: “Evacuate your children. It’s the right thing to do.” Tante Aimee announced at breakfast, “I applied to be an ambulance driver.”
Sophie rushed over to her mother. “No, it’s too dangerous. Please don’t.”
Tattie is doing the Home Guard. It’s the least I can do for the Allies. We all have to do our part, Sophie.”
She reassured her that she wouldn’t be starting until after we left and a place was found for the little children.
School starting in a normal way was out of the question with all the bombs flying. The usual fall flurry was overshadowed with worry and death. So many civilians were injured or killed by the constant bombings.
“Some people are not going into shelters,” Feter Dan explained. “They don’t or they won’t accept how dangerous it is.”
“I heard that debris flying from the bombs is injuring people,” Tante Aimee sighed.
Feter Dan said we the British would never give in to the German occupiers. “They’re calling this the Blitz from the German word “blitzkrieg” (lightning war). The Germans want revenge for RAF bombing in Western Germany. They’re attacking civilians.”
“It’s so incredible,” Tante Aimee said, wringing her hands.
“They wanted to destroy our radar sites, our food storage, and our armaments – and they haven’t done it.”
“Baruch Hashem,” she said.
“The bombs are incendiary bombs. One in ten is a dud and some have delayed action fuses, but we can’t know if the one near us is a dud.”
“Why are they targeting civilians?” I asked.
Feter Dan stroked his trimmed beard. “They want to combine an air and sea campaign. Their goal is to block Britain by sinking ships and destroying milling plants, oil, and food stock. They didn’t realize they are up against the British spirit. The British people will never surrender to these animals, never.”
I prayed Feter Dan was right, but the constant sirens and bombs were terrifying.
“When are we leaving?” I asked Tante Aimee one night. “I have to prepare Aliza.”
“We don’t know yet. As soon as I know I will tell you.”
Added to everything, there was this uncertainty about when we would be leaving. It made me jumpier not knowing when I would have to leave Tante Aimee and Fraidy and Aliza. Benny would be devastated to lose Mimi. He needed her. Questions swirled in my mind. What would the farm be like? What would this cousin Riva be like? She must be mean if she can’t take mercy and somehow let the little kids come…
I had to stop myself. I could hear my Mama say, where’s your dan l’kaf z’chus, Bayla? Give her a chance. There must be a good reason.
“I hope they don’t have a lot of animals,” I said.
“Farms have animals, Bayla,” Mimi said.
Sophie was nervous too. “I don’t want to go,” she was crying into her pillow.
I tried to reassure her even though I didn’t want to go either.
“Maybe Tatty won’t be able to get the tickets,” Sophie said.
She was still walking with one crutch, but she was a little more mobile. “Last night, I had the best dream,” she said.
“How could you sleep with all the booms and whistles?” I asked.
“I dreamed I was on stage performing. My feet were flying. I was leaping in a tour jette and then I did pirouettes across the stage.” Her eyes were shining. Then, like a light going dim, her smile melted, and her eyes looked like a wide sad mirror. “Will I ever dance again?” she whispered.
I hugged her. “You will. Hashem will heal you.”
I thought of what I wished for more than anything: to go back home and be with my parents and grandparents again. When would we all be back together as a family? I didn’t share that with Sophie. I was afraid it might be hurtful. I didn’t want her to think I wasn’t happy being with her and her family.
It seemed like one minute we were talking about leaving and the next we were packing to go. Feter Dan brought home tickets for a boat leaving tomorrow morning.
I couldn’t sleep. I lay in bed thinking about the upcoming trip.
“I’m worried about the passage across the ocean, Dan,” I heard Tante Aimee whispering in the kitchen.
“It’s bombs falling all over here or uncertainty about the ocean. We have to put our trust in the Ribbono Shel Olam.”
I hadn’t thought about the possibility of attacks on the ocean. “Mimi.” I gently shook her awake. “Go to sleep, Bayla, It’s late.” She rolled over.
“Mimi, were there attacks on the boat when you came here?”
Mimi turned back towards me. “There were a few German ships we had to avoid. One time they threw a bomb but, baruch Hashem, it missed. It was really scary.”
“So, I don’t want to go then. The ocean is a risky place.”
Mimi ignored me and went back to sleep. I got up and stood gazing at Aliza who was breathing evenly, clutching her jump rope. Tante Aimee had promised her a new jump rope and lots of treats tomorrow. Aliza had stopped crying. When she first heard I was leaving she was hysterical.
I planted a kiss on her head. Then I started saying T’hilim. Finally, I lay down and slept for an hour.
I rose very early to daven. I heard Tante Aimee in the kitchen. She saw me, and I saw she quickly wiped away tears. “I’m packing some tuna sandwiches for you to take.”
We hugged. “Take care of Sophie, Bayla.”
“I will,” I said.
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.