"I ma, it’s Rosh Chodesh today, too,” Rivky informed me. “I need a white blouse.”

The one she’d worn yesterday was dirty, and I hadn’t done the laundry yet. Don’t tell the social workers or my mother. I tried to think of an alternative, and I remembered the cute blouse I’d bought her a few weeks ago.

“I have an idea. Up on the top shelf, I have a new blouse for you with a pretty pink flower embroidered on it,” I said. “I was going to save it for the summer, but you can wear it now.”

I opened the upper door of the closet with my right hand, and reached for the blouse with my left hand.

I couldn’t reach it.

Two months of physiotherapy, and my left arm still had limited mobility. My physiotherapist was careful not to make any definitive statements, but reading between the lines, I understood from her that I might never fully recover my range of motion. I told her I would do my exercises more faithfully, and I started doing them at home, too, as I was supposed to. But I still couldn’t raise that arm all the way, or stretch it out in front of me. I was disabled. Handicapped. Maybe forever.

“Take it down with your right hand,” Rivky said, suggesting the obvious solution.

But I gritted my teeth and kept trying to reach the blouse with my left hand, taking deep gasps with each attempt.

“You sound like an old lady,” said my six-year-old. “And I wanted to go to gan early. We’re doing the letter nun now, and Morah has special worksheets waiting for us.”

“So your nun will wait a few minutes,” I said. “The sky won’t fall, believe me.” My muscles were stinging, and I was afraid I was hurting myself, but something in me refused to stop trying.

“I’ll get a stepstool,” Rivky offered.

“No,” I said obstinately.

The phone rang. Rivky picked it up. “Hello? No, Mommy can’t talk now. What’s she doing? She’s trying to get a blouse down from a high shelf. You know, a blouse, like I wear to gan. High, high up. Mommy can’t get the high blouse.” Rivky’s voice got louder as she switched to a slow, halting Hebrew, and I tried to figure out who she was talking to. “Mommy wants to take blouse with broken arm,” Rivky said emphatically.

I took the receiver.

“Sara’le?” It was Bernadine. “What are you doing?”

“Being stubborn,” I answered. “But wait — where are you? Didn’t you say you were going back to your village?”

“Yes, I came back.” Bernadine sounded as if she’d just discovered something incredible. “I’m talking to you from Yango Bay.”

“What? From Yango Bay? I thought there are no phones there! And you said a satellite phone was much too expensive.”

“Well, now we have a mobile network.” Bernadine sounded surprised herself. “I can’t believe it, either. Yango Bay is finally joining civilization. The villages along the river are all getting connected. Nobody can believe it. I’m calling up everyone I know, just to convince myself that it’s real.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 711)