Recap: Mrs. Cantor redt a shidduch for Bayla, and Bayla doesn’t want to go through with it but he came for dinner. She told him she is going away for the summer so she can’t really start a relationship. Mrs. Cantor is upset at Bayla for doing this.
In early April, Mimi and Sophie accompanied me to the train station. We hugged each other and promised to write. “I’ll only be gone for the spring and summer,” I said.
Watching the sad expression in Mimi’s eyes, I almost changed my mind about going.
Gloria and I sat on the train together, chatting and giggling and watching the scenery fly by.
“Have you ever been to Washington before?” I asked
“Once when I was little, my father took me. It was back when Harry Truman was a senator and Daddy brought me along. Washington was beautiful. There were cherry blossoms everywhere.”
We arrived in Washington on April 12, in the morning. Margie had telegrammed the address of our apartment, which was very close to the White House. I was so excited about the internship I was about to have with a Washington journalist.
We settled in, unpacking our clothing and putting things away. Margie called.
I had just washed my hair and I was getting ready to go meet my mentor. I couldn’t hear what Margie was saying because she was crying so hard.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Bayla, you haven’t heard?”
“What’s wrong?” My heart was pounding.
“Bayla, President Roosevelt is dead.”
I froze. The President is dead.
Outside, people were gathering on the streets. Everyone was in shock.
Gloria huddled near me. “A whole era is ending,” Gloria whispered. “Roosevelt got us through the war.”
I realized something incredible. Margie’s father was now the President of the country.
It took me a few minutes to remember that I was still on the phone with her.
“I can’t believe my father is the President. It’s too unreal.” Margie paused. She’s never speechless, but this one time she had nothing to say. “I’m so sad.”
There was a beat. “We’re going to move into the White House. Daddy had to fly back this morning from Missouri to get sworn in.”
“I am sure he’ll be a good president,” I said.
“I’m so glad you are here with me in Washington now. I don’t want to be alone here. I’d ask you to come over, but there are so many swarming Secret Service, and we have to go follow the casket now.”
“Good luck, President’s daughter,” I whispered.
The White House correspondent was kind. She gave me papers to type and she pointed out things about the writing. I was grateful for her instruction. I was learning how to write about events that took place in the White House.
One morning, Margie called Gloria in a panic. “You and Bayla have to come over. Miss Sissel Bratz, Miss Guri, and Miss Mette Lie – the daughters of the Secretary General of the United Nations – are invited to tea at the White House. “They’re my age, so mother put me in charge. I’m so nervous. I don’t speak Norwegian.”
Gloria and I exchanged glances. “We’ll be over soon.” I dressed quickly and put on my press pass tag. Gloria came along. She had a guest tag that Margie had gotten her. It was a four-block walk for us. This was a perfect event to write about. I brought my camera and notepad.
The three girls stepped into the ballroom. Margie, Gloria, and I stood there staring at them. Gloria nudged me like I should say something.
Sissel broke the ice. “How do you do? It’s so nice to meet you.”
Margie shook each of their hands and introduced us as her good friends from Missouri. “You actually speak English.”
The three sisters giggled.
“We were so nervous to come here,” Guri confided. As we sat down at the long table, a maid brought in cakes and tea. ”We didn’t know how to get here so we asked a lot of people directions.”
I noticed Gloria demurred when offered cake. She had really taken on keeping kosher.
“You were just staying across the street at the Blair House.”
Guri shrugged. “We finally called a car service to take us here.”
Margie burst out laughing and soon we were all giggling together. “I can’t believe you drove here from across the street.”
Margie was the penultimate hostess. I took photos and interviewed each of them. I hoped my mentor would like the article.
When they left, Margie turned to me and said, “They are such nice girls. That was really fun. Thank G-d, they knew English.”
The next night, there was a big thunderstorm. Margie called us to come over to the White House. “You have to come see what’s going on here.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just come and bring your camera.”
Gloria and I traipsed through the rain, and Margie greeted us in the front lobby. “Come upstairs with me.”
She put her finger to her lips as we tiptoed into one of the upstairs rooms. She pointed at her father, who was mopping the floor with towels and trying to stop a big leak in the wall. “Daddy is taking care of the White House just like he took care of our house in Missouri.”
I snapped a photo and Margie’s father, the President, smiled at me and went back to his work to stop the leak.
Later that day, Margie asked us to come up to her room. She’d fixed it up like her bedroom in Missouri, complete with her doll and stuffed animal collection room when she was little. “My father wrote me this letter. I wanted to show it to you. It is so meaningful to me.”
“It’s personal. I don’t want to,” I said
“You’re my good friends. I want you to see what kind of person my father is.”
I was thinking of the President on his knees mopping up a leak in the White House, and that already showed me who he was: someone with no pretention, a man of integrity.
…Keep your balance and display all the Truman-Wallace mulishness where right and wrong are in the balance. Right must always prevail. Do not let the glamour get to you. There are decent, honorable people among the rich, just as there are among the very poor.
Honor knows no class. It is just as great and as necessary at one end of the scale as the other… Remember always to keep your balance no matter how great you may become in your own time. Great men and women are assayed in future generations. Your Dad will never be reckoned among the great, but you can be sure he did his level best and gave all he had to his country…
I smiled at Margie. “I’m glad your father became President of the United States.”
“Have you heard any more from your Aunt Aimee?” she asked.
“Tante Aimee sent a letter that was dated a while ago. It sounds like the allies are finishing off the war, G-d willing.”
“Did you hear the news about Hitler?” Margie asked.
I nodded. “He killed himself. “Yimach sh’mo,” I said. “His name, his evil, should be blotted out.”
“Maybe the war will end soon,” Margie said.
I thought of my family and Tante Aimee. When the war ends, then they would come to America, im yirtzeh Hashem. The thought of it was an incredible dream that I visualized and davened for every day.
Margie studied my face. “Bayla, are you going to go out with that boy the shadchan suggested.”
I sighed. That was the question. A new boy was suggested for me. He sounded like someone from a decent background and I probably should consider him. “I told her yes, but I’m not so excited.”
I shrugged. There was a reason, but it was too private to even share with Margie. I hadn’t shared it with even my sister Mimi or my cousin Sophie, though I suspected they knew. There was someone else I wished I could go out with, only he was officially engaged at this very minute and I had to forget him and move on.
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.