I

don’t know what to make of this. Not at all! I feel cold and hot, dizzy and scared. What is going on? My strong, capable parents are breaking down in front of my eyes. There were times in my life when I saw my mother upset, but never in tears. I’ve seen my father worried more than once, but he was always in control of the situation.

I take a hesitant step towards them and halt. Yael is clutching my arm so tightly that the circulation is practically cut off. When I try to shake her off her little nails dig in deeper, causing me to yelp at the sharp pain.

Somehow that sound galvanizes everyone. In the next moment Ima has scooped up Yael in her arms and buries her own tear-stained face in the little girl’s dress, and Abba has his arms around me. I hear him murmuring in my ear, “It’s going to be alright. We’ll get through this.”

I’m so reassured to have them back in their familiar roles. I hug my father, weak with relief. He leads me out of the kitchen and into the living room. We sit side by side on the sofa and he strokes my face. The undisguised look of distress on his face cuts through me like a knife. “Abba,” I choke out. “Abba, tell me what happened.”

He nods sadly. “We will, Meir. Give us a few seconds to get ourselves together.”

My heart thumps in my chest. I have a really bad feeling about this. Maybe I don’t want to hear what they’re going to say? If it’s so terrible, maybe I’d rather not know? I’m desperate to turn the clock back an hour, to when everything was normal.

Ima comes into the living room and takes a seat on her recliner. Her face is calm, though strained. My sister jumps down from our mother’s lap and runs over to me, holding out a bright red lollipop she’s just been given. She wants to give it me! Isn’t that sweet? I pull Yael up to the sofa on my other side, carefully remove the wrapper and return it to her. She promptly plops the candy into her mouth, leaning back against me with a sigh of pleasure. Despite all the tension of the moment, Yael’s sweet tooth makes me smile.

I hear my father draw in a deep breath and I turn to meet his eyes. “You once asked me if I had any idea why those Arabs were following you,” he begins and stops, clearly unable to continue.

The Arabs! I glance at my mother and see that her face has become extremely pale. Her lips are compressed so tightly they’re almost white. She nods encouragement to my father.

“It’s a long story,” he says. “I don’t know where to begin.”

We all sit in silence, listening to the tiny slurps as Yael sucks her lollipop. A phone rings, but no one gets up to answer it.

“Have you ever wondered about your mother, the one who gave birth to you?” Ima’s question startles me. Her voice is gentle, and there is a caress in her blue eyes. “It’s only normal to think about something like that from time to time,” she adds.

Tears sting my eyes. “You’re my real mother!” I insist. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 715)