Recap: Bayla has to face her fear of animals, now living on the farm. She even has to learn to milk a cow. Mrs. Cantor disapproves of her writing and calls it a waste of time. Mrs. Cantor overhears Bayla complaining about her.
I felt my cheeks burn. I was so ashamed of what I’d said and that she heard me.
Mimi squeezed my hand in sympathy.
I was mortified. Of course I had done the wrong thing. Lashon ha’ra is not excusable.
“Hurry on back to the kitchen now. The breakfast is ready and then I have a list for you to pick up at the general store,” Mrs. Cantor said.
“I’m so embarrassed,” I whispered to Mimi.
The scent of cinnamon and maple syrup wafted through the kitchen. Sophie was standing beside a large black woman whom I assumed must be Marie.
“Girls, come get your delicious hot cakes – hot off the griddle. Your cousin is a griddle cake whiz.”
They were delicious. “Sophie, they’re delicious!” I said, biting into my fourth.
Sophie blushed. “Well, it wasn’t that hard.”
Mr. Cantor came in and sat down at the breakfast table.
“Looks really good,” he said to Marie.
“Sophie, made ’em,” she said.
“Thank you, Sophie,” he said.
“I’ll be in my furniture workshop today, if the Mrs. needs me, please tell her.” He turned towards us and said, “Have a good day!”
“Does he make furniture?” I asked Marie, who was busy cutting up oranges and vegetables.
“He makes the most beautiful things. If ya’ll have time, go take a look in his workshop. It will amaze ya’ll.”
I was about to say that I was surprised that Mrs. Cantor let him do anything but farm work, but I’d learned my lesson and I held my tongue.
Mrs. Cantor came into the kitchen later and told us that we had to go register at the public school that was two miles away. She explained the walking directions. “You best go this morning before they close. School starts in two weeks.”
I hadn’t been thinking about school. I wondered what it would be like here in the United States.
Sophie couldn’t walk two miles. “How will Sophie register?” I asked.
“You do it for her.”
Sophie’s face darkened. I could see she didn’t care for that answer.
After we registered at the school, which was a small building very different from our schools in Poland, we strolled back to the farm. “Let’s go see the furniture workshop. I’m so curious to see it,” Mimi said.
We strolled over to a small building. We knocked and stepped inside. It smelled of fresh wood carvings. Mr. Cantor was seated away from us carefully sawing a piece of wood. We glanced around. The furniture was labeled by types of wood. There were cherry wood rockers and pinkish red oak chairs with a swirly grain, and a mahogany table, desk, and a chest of drawers. Each piece was distinctive. Each piece was a work of art. It was clear that Mr. Cantor put his heart into each design.
“Everything is so precisely designed. I never saw such exquisite furniture,” I blurted.
Just then, a bell tinkled on the door and a customer entered the shop. It was a middle-aged man who wore glasses and he was accompanied by two girls who looked about my age. One had wavy blonde hair cut to her shoulders and blue eyes. She looked like the man. The other had dark hair and dark intelligent eyes.
“How can I help you?” Mr. Cantor asked.”
“I’m looking for a handmade piano bench and I’d like a rocking chair, too.”
“So, let’s sit down and you describe the type of wood you envision and how it will look, and I’ll make some quick sketches for you.”
“Much obliged. I heard good things about your little store here.” He held out his hand. “Harry Truman.”
“Arnold Cantor. Nice to meet you.”
“This is Margie, my daughter.” He pointed to the blonde girl. “And that’s her friend, Gloria Jacobson. She’s the daughter of my best friend Eddie.”
I wondered why he was offering so much information. Strangers meeting in Poland never offered that much at a first meeting.
Margie glanced over at us and smiled.
I smiled back. There was something so happy and light-hearted about her. I wished right then that I could get to know her.
“You from around here?” Mr. Cantor asked.
“Yes, Independence, since I was a tyke.”
“Funny we never met before.”
“The city is booming and growing. And who are these fine young ladies?”
“My wife’s cousins from Europe.”
Mr. Truman’s brow wrinkled. “You were there with the war going on.”
“We’re bound to get into this war. We have to stop Hitler,” Mr. Truman said.
“Agreed,” said Mr. Cantor as he carefully sketched a design for Mr. Truman.
Margie and Gloria approached us. “What are your names? Will you be going to the middle school?” Margie asked.
We told her our names. “We just registered there. I’m in ninth grade and Mimi is in eighth; but honestly I’m not sure how we’ll do, since English is not our first language.”
“Hey, Margie and Gloria to the rescue. We’ll be good friends, and Gloria and I will help you with your English.”
Gloria nodded. “Where are you from?” she asked.
“Originally, Poland,” I said.
“What instrument is that?” Margie pointed at the flute case Mimi kept with her always.
Mimi opened it and showed her the flute.
“Oh, I love flute. We’ll have to get together for duets. I have a beautiful piano. Flute and piano duets are the best,” Margie said.
“Do you play, too?” she asked me.
“I play piano.”
“Perfect. We have two pianos in my house. We can play a trio together.”
“What about me?” Gloria asked.
“You can play my tambourine.”
“Perfect,” she laughed.
I loved Margie’s enthusiasm and how she made us feel like we were friends already.
She handed me a paper with her name and number and Gloria’s name and number, and she asked me to give her ours. I didn’t even know the address here, so I just said, “We just came, and I don’t know the address and phone number.”
“That’s okay. My father does.”
The men shook hands and Mr. Truman said he would be back in a week to check on the progress of his order.
At dinner that night, Mrs. Cantor and Mr. Cantor were both seated at the table, which hadn’t happened since we arrived. “We had some customers today.” Mr. Cantor passed the salad to me.
Mrs. Cantor was biting into a cucumber. “Who?”
“A Mr. Truman and his daughter.”
She stopped chewing and looked up at him. “Was his first name Harry?”
Mr. Cantor nodded. “How’d you know? You know the family?”
She swallowed. “Arnold, that’s our senator. Did you realize you had the senator from Missouri in your store?” She smiled. “Well, now you’re getting some important customers.”
I wanted to ask what a senator was, but I didn’t want her to make fun of my ignorance.
Later, Mr. Cantor explained to us that a senator is an important member of the government. So, we’d just made friends with a senator’s daughter.
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.