Recap: Mrs. Cantor is gruff and unfriendly, and all three girls are unhappy and homesick.
I was wondering if things could get any worse, and then we stepped into the barn. The smell of animals and wet hay hit me.
A man named Jason said, “Hello. I’m gonna show y’all how to milk the cows.”
He showed us what to do, and I whispered to Mimi, “I can’t touch it. I’m scared of it.”
“You have to. It helps the cow.”
I held my breath as I reached towards the cow. It took me three times before I actually forced myself to touch it. The cow felt hairy and I could feel her breathing.
“Now squeeze,” Jason instructed.
The cow smelled, and I hated touching it.
“You have to grab on and squeeze hard,” he said.
Mimi was doing it with ease. She even patted the cow and whispered to her.
I held my nose.
Jason said, “You got to get used to animals, Miss. This is what farm work is about.”
Sophie looked at me. “Let’s go back home.”
I wanted to. I really wanted to, but of course we had just crossed an ocean to escape all the bombings.
Somehow, I forced myself to squeeze harder and harder. The milk squirted into my eye. Mimi giggled and then I had to laugh, too.
After the cow ordeal, Jason took us to a different part of the barn where the horses were kept. Mimi ran over and patted them both. “They’re beautiful,” she said.
I was still holding my nose. Jason showed us how we should rake the hay and what to feed the horses.
That night, I tried to sleep on the hard top bunk. Mimi climbed up to talk to me. Sophie was on the bed by the small window, crying into her pillow.
“This is not working out well,” Mimi whispered. “What should we do? Sophie is so upset.”
“I don’t blame her, “ I whispered.
“We have to put on a brave front for her, Bayla. You have to,” she whispered.
“I know. I just wish I didn’t have to touch cows and horses.”
That night I dreamed that my parents and Tante Aimee and Feter Dan and Fraidy and Shimon Zev were all coming to take me back to Poland. I was startled awake by a loud cuckoo. I opened my eyes and glanced around the bare little bedroom. I realized with a sinking feeling that we were all here in Missouri.
Mimi stretched and hopped out of bed. It was cold, even though it was summer.
We headed outside. It was still dark. Sophie called from her bed, “Good luck.”
“You, too,” I said.
“When will we daven?” Mimi asked.
I gazed up at the starry sky. “I guess after we milk the cows and feed the horses.”
It was so still and quiet out here on the farm. The only sound was the shuffle of our feet on the dewy grass and the distant hum of insects. The smell of the animals wafted across at us. I held my nose. It was getting sore from being pinched closed so much.
Mimi hooked her arm in mine. “Remember, Bayla, that Hashem is with us each step of the way. He’s our shadow.”
I asked Hashem to help me overcome my fear of animals.
Somehow, I managed to milk two cows with a lot of help from Mimi. I raked the hay for the horses, but when the big black horse started whinnying and stamped its hoof, I backed away in alarm. “Mimi, can you feed them, please? I can’t go near them.”
Mimi fed them.
After that, we stood outside and gazed at the magnificent sunrise ribboning the sky in amber and rose. I pointed out a good spot to daven and we stood under a lush oak and davened. I asked Hashem to help me deal with this new place and to see the good, and to help me help Mimi and Sophie to adjust, and to please keep our families safe and to bring our families here.
We headed back across the fields of waving wheat and corn stalks. I shielded my eyes and all I could see for miles and miles was undulating wheat. “It’s like ocean waves,” I said.
“It is beautiful. I wish I could paint it,” Mimi said.
“Frivolous, not necessary.” I imitated Mrs. Cantor’s high-pitched voice. I felt the resentment from the morning rise inside. “Just learn domestic and farm skills – that’s what you need.” I was saying these things in a loud, angry way. I didn’t notice until it was too late that Mrs. Cantor had approached us and was standing with her hands on her hips listening to me. She glared at me. “That’s right. Women need to learn domestic skills. You can’t run a household without them, missy.”
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.