Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Pesach Story

She screamed JAP, Jewish American Princess, from the flat suede pumps to the black taffeta rosette clipping back blonde strands of hair. She walked with poise, too; heading directly to the table in the centre of the room.

Raizl watched the girl pile a plate high with cakes, selecting slices from each tray, layers of chocolate and mousse. She stifled feelings of annoyance. That little girl was acting as if she owned the place. She could only be nine, or ten, years old. Yet she strode around like a little queen.

"She's only a child", Raizl told herself, but still the feelings came.

Hatred was too harsh a word. Raizl kept track of the girl, as she circled the hotel dining room, backwards and forwards between tables, fetching drinks and desserts, bearing bounty back to the table where her family must be sitting.

Resentment, perhaps. Yes, that was closer to the truth. Raizl resented the girl, with her perfect outfit and complete confidence. Raizl was a grown up now, a married woman, but still, she would never possess that self assurance. To have it, you had to be born with it, to it, to that life.

Raizl didn't belong here. Others thought she did. She managed to fool them. After years of trial and error, she'd learned. What to wear, what to say, where to go, who to know.

But then she saw that little girl, bred from the birth with everything, only a child, but already educated in all of societies standards. She saw her, and remembered what she was lacking, what she'd missed out on, what she'd never have. And she tried not to be jealous.
___________

She recognized her by the flower. This time it was brown velvet, matching the brown pleated jumper dress. Raizl could see only her back, since the girl stood right by the Mechitza, in the center of the front row. Raizl always chose seats in the rear, by the side.

The moment approached, that time that Raizl had been half dreading, half waiting for; sadness mixed with sweetness.

The reading of the Torah ended. Around her women streamed out of the makeshift Shul, murmuring words of apology as they slipped passed her, pushing forward the chairs in front, while Raizl stood firmly in place, avoiding their eyes, not wanting to see what she might find in their gazes- Pity perhaps? Or relief that they were not in her place?

A few women remained inside with her. They were all older than she was, with starched short Shaitels, and faces already creased with lines. She was used to being the youngest, by now, after all these years.

Then Raizl saw the girl, in her dress and flower. She was still in Shul, still standing in the same place, by the Mechitza. She hadn't gone with the others. She stood rigidly straight, a prettily dressed little girl, among the old ladies.

Worlds can shift, in seconds.

Raizl wanted to hug the girl, to cradle her close and tell her to be brave, to hold her hand and tell her she understood. Instead there was silence, aside for the rustlings of pages, and the sounds of unspoken memories. Yizkor had begun.
___________

It was blue today, a bright peacock blue that Raizl spotted between shoulders and raised plates. The blue of the lace flower set off the sky blue of the girl's sweater. She looked as fashionable as always, with not a hair out of place, and the same confident lift of shoulders that Raizl had been envying all vacation.

Raizl watched her carefully choose cakes, filling up first one and then another plate. When she picked them both up, she faltered for a moment, losing her balance, trying not to drop the dishes.

Raizl put down her napkin and pushed back her chair. She half walked, half ran, across the room, to the little girl, and stretched out a hand, to help, to clear the way.

The girl looked up at her, with clear eyes, and the solemn look that Raizl had thought, before, was condescendence, then her lips relaxed for a moment, formed a soft half smile. She gave a nod, of thanks.

Raizl helped the girl carry the food back to where her mother waited, feeding the baby, trying to keep the little kids distracted. Because the girl was the oldest, the big sister. She needed to help, now that Abba was gone, she had responsibilities.

She reminded Raizl of herself, so many years ago. They were both fighters.

17 comments:

  1. Your writing never fails to bring a tear to my eye.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You haven't lost your touch....

    ReplyDelete
  3. Excellent!

    Worlds can shift, in seconds.

    Don't I (and perhaps most of us) know about this one. We see people and make quick judgments in our mind. And sometimes, those judgments get completely reversed in the blink of an eye.

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I was going to say excellent!, but that was already taken.

    Then I was going to remark upon your stunning way with words, and your ability to stir up very strong emotions in your readers...but that's been taken too!

    You are, as always, a talented gem! I hope you are submitting your various works to publishing companies, I'm sure they would consider a wordsmith like yourself a complete gold mine!

    ReplyDelete
  5. yizkor is before musaf, not after.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oops. I'll fix that tommorrow!

    And thanks everyone for your kind words

    YelloIsn'tMello- I'm yet to find a frum magazine that will print my stuff. Although maybe this story is tznius and non controversial enough for them. I'll try..

    ReplyDelete
  7. Definitely keep trying to get published! This was a wonderful, very powerful piece. You capture the beauty and fragility of life quite well in your stories.

    ReplyDelete
  8. "I'm yet to find a frum magazine that will print my stuff. Although maybe this story is tznius and non controversial enough for them."

    If you think your writing is worthy, then you don't need some ideological censor to decide what can and cannot be published. Your blog is worth more than any "frum magazine" and I am sure a general (not a frum one) publishing house would be keen to publish your book.

    You are a fantastic writer and a worthy person. You need to break out of looking for other people's approval and start feeling confident in yourself to do your own thing. You just seem to me to be dating guys who can't appreciate you and trying to get approval from the wrong people who don't understand what you are about.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I don't normally comment on blogs, i'm one of those "ghost" followers...but i wanted to let you know how much i enjoy reading your work. You are fantastically talented and i hope you continue to write for a long time to come.

    Regarding publishing, perhaps you could pitch your work to a "regular" publishing agency. To be honest, you might be better off without needless censorship.

    It's refreshing to read something honest from a frum writer for a change...please don't alter that.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Why is it that we need proof to treat someone kindly? It's so true, in this day and age of insecurity, that so many of us need validation. But if this little girl HAD a father . . . she could have, maybe even should have, still been helped out.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Rafi- I was merely explaining how my writing does/doesn't fit the Chareidi publishing world's criteria.
    I do think my writing is 'worthy', that's why I'm posting it here :-)
    But I would like to make it to the press somehow..

    About the guys I'm dating- you struck a nerve. Blog post coming up.

    Troi- You're right, and that's a good point. You made me rethink my story. Although theoretically we should love EVERY Jew, and in real life, we know what happens.

    I saw my story as being about Raizl, and Raizl isn't perfect. Raizl resented that girl and thought she was a JAP, even though she knew she was wrong to. Hopefully this taught her a lesson, about never judging people.

    ReplyDelete
  12. this is a very very moving story

    I think you could get it published maybe in Horizons

    ReplyDelete
  13. Another gem. Your stories really engage the emotion.

    I skipped yizkor this year. First time since my parent died 11 years ago. Tears stream down my face even now as I recall always being the youngest guy left in the room during yizkor.

    This Pesach I said enough is enough. I communicate with my deceased parent all the time, I don't need to ruin the joy of the chag to conform to a minhag that makes no common sense.

    I can understand yizkor on a solemn day like Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur/9 B'Av but not on a warm and beautiful holiday like the shalosh rigalim.

    -Alan

    ReplyDelete
  14. Alan- Thanks for the compliment. But I'm sorry you feel that way about Yizkor.

    The reason I described Yizkor as 'Sadness mixed with sweetness", is because to me, it does give a good, warm, feeling to take a moment and think about somebody who I love, who isn't around any longer. Yes, I can think about him all the time, but there is something special about including him in the Yom Tov prayers, making him somehow more a part of it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. FNF -

    That is such a beautiful way of looking at yizkor. I've thrown away most of the rituals since losing my parent and yizkor was one of the last to go; with your comments in mind I will hopefully attend on Shavu'ot.

    Alan

    ReplyDelete