Recap: Yehudis shares with her friend Tema her unhappiness about her new living situation and also the fact that she learned that she’s adopted. She asks Tema if she can come board at her house. Tema says of course, but it may not always be a good solution to run away from one’s troubles. She decides to read more of the journal to distract herself.
A few weeks passed. Ima was regaining some strength, but we were all still doing all the chores for her. Chanukah was in a week, and Father was polishing the menorah when there was a knock on the door.
“A letter for you,” our neighbor said. “I went to get my mail, and this was there.”
It was a letter from Ezra. Father read it and then he called to Ima, “Esther, good news.”
Mama plodded into the living room holding little Leah.
“Miriam is due in six weeks.”
“Ezra writes that he has to go on a trip with Mr. Shaw, Mr. Burr’s assistant, and Miriam needs help. She’s not feeling well, and the doctor said she should get more rest.”
“Then Ezra should stay home. He shouldn’t go,” Mama said.
“Father sighed. He turned towards me. “I know I’ve been asking a lot of you, son, but I can’t leave now. You understand.”
Mama interrupted. “I will be fine, if you need to go.”
“Esther, I don’t know how long it will take. I’m not leaving you right now. You need to fully regain your strength.”
Mother sank into the rocking chair, cradling little Kayla.
“I’ll be happy to go,” I said. “I love spending time with Dovid.”
Father put his arm on my shoulder. “I was thinking that this will be an opportunity to teach him about Yiddishkeit. His father isn’t––”
Mama clucked her tongue. “Let’s only say positives, Yehuda.”
“Fine. The point is, this will be good for Dovid and a huge mitzvah on your part.”
“When should I leave.”
“Ezra writes that he’s leaving in four days from the time the letter was posted, so you best get ready for tomorrow. I’ll book you a ticket on the next boat. You better take your Chanukiah.”
I’d be away from home for Chanukah, but I would be with Dovid.
“Please bring some holiness into their house,” Mama said.
Before I knew it, I was back in Marietta. Only this time, Ezra was away, so Miriam and Dovid met me at the boat. Dovid was jumping up and down. “Yay! Yishai is here!”
I held his hand as he skipped beside me back to the house.
“Thanks so much for coming,” Miriam said. “We’re supposed to be moving in a few weeks and I can’t get any packing done with this lively boy.”
We strolled down a cobblestone street with a row of shops and some small houses adjacent to them. Miriam pointed to the house with blue shutters. “That small house over there is where my midwife lives. It’s good for you to know, just in case of an emergency. The blue shutters are a good landmark.”
I nodded, thanking Hashem that the baby wasn’t due for a while and Ezra would be long back by then.
The minute we walked into the house, Dovid wanted to play games with me. We gradually fell into a routine. I helped with the cooking, and I took Dovid to school and I picked him up. While he was gone, I learned and then I helped with cleaning and laundry and other chores in the house. Miriam spent time packing and then resting. When Dovid was home, I taught him the parshah and I taught him how to read from the siddur. He picked it up quickly.
“I want to read that page,” he pointed at the page with the Morning Brachos.
“Okay, I’ll show you.”
Soon he was saying Modeh Ani and the Morning Brachos by heart.
“Tomorrow night is a special night,” I told him.
He looked at me quizzically.
I couldn’t believe he didn’t know about Chanukah. I patiently explained about the miracles and why we light the menorah. “Come, I’ll show you how we set it up with oil by the windowsill.” I helped Dovid construct a menorah out of pieces of wood. We nailed it together and then Miriam found paints for him to decorate it. He was so proud of his menorah. I put little metal cups inside it for the oil.
“I’m not sure we should light by the window. Maybe just on the table inside. No one else does that here,” Miriam said. “I’m not sure if it’s a good idea.”
I didn’t contradict her, especially not in front of Dovid, but I thought to myself: If Hashem commands it, then it’s a good idea.
The first night, I helped Dovid set up his menorah, and then I helped Miriam peel potatoes and fry latkes. “I’m not feeling so well, “ Miriam said after Dovid said the brachos with me. “I’m going to go lie down.”
Dovid and I sat, watching the lights. I took out my Gemara to learn and Dovid was sitting near the window watching the flames.
I looked up from my learning at one point and noticed Dovid wasn’t in the room. “Dovid?”
I stood up and searched the other rooms. He wasn’t there.
I opened the door. I caught a glimpse of him standing outside by the window staring at the flames. “I wanted to see how it looks from outside. It’s so beautiful,” he said. “I love Chanukah,” he whispered.
“Me, too, little man,” I said. “But its cold out here. Look, it’s snowing.”
Dovid laughed as snowflakes laced his face.
“Let’s go in and have some warm latkes and hot cocoa,” I said.
We went back inside and I knocked on Miriam’s bedroom door. “Do you want to come for supper?” I asked.
“Not now,” she said.
After our meal, Dovid and I played dreidel. When the oil had extinguished and there was that heavenly scent of olive oil burning, Dovid began rubbing his eyes. “Come on, Dovid. Let’s get you ready for bed.”
I led Dovid to the window so we could watch the snow. The wind had picked up and was blowing sheets of snow in swirling eddies. The ground was already coated with at least an inch.
“Can we make a snowman tomorrow?” Dovid asked.
“You bet,” I said.
Miriam still hadn’t come out of her room, so I tucked Dovid in and we both sang HaMal’ach.
Dovid kissed my cheek and he lay back and was fast asleep in minutes. I tiptoed out and went back to the table to learn by the gas lamp.
It must have been midnight when I finally decided to close my Gemara and try to get some sleep. That’s when I heard Miriam calling me.
“Yishai, I need you to come here.”
“Yishai, I think the baby is coming.”
“What should I do?” My heart started pounding.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishing, 2021), 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. Fiction serial Jewish Press Falling Star (2019).