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Tempo Fiction: Open House

Rochel Grunewald

"If you recognize what you have and you're ready to give something away, Hashem sends the people who need it"

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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"M

y teacher thinks I need my hearing checked.”

We’re walking home from school, Chaya and I, a bag over my shoulder and the shadow of clouds hurrying me forward.

“Mmm-hmm,” I say, thinking of rice and meatballs and everything I forgot to do on the way home from work before picking Chaya up.

“Because she kept thinking I wasn’t listening, when really I just didn’t hear her. She said she’s gonna call you, Mommy, kay?”

She’s gonna call you seeps into my consciousness. “What? Your teacher wants to speak to me?”

“I told you that already. Because I can’t hear so well at the back of the room.” She looks at me, wide-eyed. “Do you need to check your ears, Mommy? Because you don’t hear me sometimes.”

I have to laugh. “No, sweetie, Mommy is just distracted. When I’m thinking about so many things, like what we’re going to have for supper, it’s hard to listen at the same time.”

“Like me,” she says, and then she frowns. “But not really, because sometimes I really want to listen to the teacher and I just can’t hear her, or she’s in the middle of a story and starts talking in a tiny whispering voice and it’s too quiet for me.”

I’m alarmed. “Oh no, Chaya, why didn’t you tell me before?” My mind is in overdrive, trying to remember if I’ve noticed any signs of hearing difficulties. When I wake her in the morning? I always thought Chaya’s just a heavy sleeper — all my kids are. When I call her to come for meals? She usually comes, except when she’s busy with her games.... Have I missed something?

She shrugs. Before I can question her more, she gets distracted again. “Hey, Mommy, what’s that?”

She is pointing at a muddy green thing lying, sodden, in the gutter by our feet. It takes me a second or two to realize it’s a hat. Or it was a hat.

“Why did someone leave their hat there?” Chaya asks, bewildered.

I shrug, Mommy-knows-everything syndrome in full swing. How should I know? “Maybe it got too wet,” I suggest.

“Why?”

“Why do you think?” I counter. She thinks a minute. “The rain?”

“That’s what I think.”

“But,” her face puckers, “why couldn’t he just go home?”

I could’ve told her he was out shopping, or too far, or forgot his umbrella. But the hat is pulling memories from a forgotten corner of my brain, and instead I say, “You know that not everyone has a home. We’re very lucky, Chaya. When I was young, Bubby and Zeidy often had guests who didn’t have real homes of their own.”

It occurs to me that this is a good chance to test out her teacher’s concerns. I watch her closely for signs of not hearing, or misunderstanding, as I launch into storyteller mode. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 594)

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