I

I put the finishing touches on my French braid and dab on a coat of lip gloss. Our first family outing in Stonesworth, hence the extra primping.

I flash my dimples at my reflection and then bound downstairs to the kitchen. Mommy is packing sandwiches and vegetable slices while Tzippy regales her with information about the frum college program.

“It’s amazing. The girls are so nice and there’s even a kosher cafeteria! And I didn’t see a single pair of ripped jeans,” she giggles.

I grin. “Yes, I hear the Flatbush community frowns upon ripped jeans.”

She smiles and tugs on my braid. “Ha ha. I’m just excited to be with frum Jews, y’know?”

I shrug. “I guess, but I mean we were in Brownsfeld, not Alaska. We’ve seen Jews before.”

Tzippy wrinkles her nose at me. “Drink some coffee, then I’ll tell you the rest.”

She’s right, I’m in much better form after my brewed hazelnut fix. I accept a mug and perch on a barstool.

“So where are we headed to?”

Mommy sits next to me and pours herself a cup of juice. “Mmm. So, we’ll start at the duck pond; Simchi’s been begging to feed them. Then we’ll go get school supplies at the mall, and then have a picnic in Rogers Park. Lani says it’s beautiful. Sound good?”

I nod, excited. It does sound fun.

We drive to the pond, even though it is less than five minutes away, and then we all hop out, carrying little bags of breadcrumbs that Mommy had packed for us. Simchi takes off running, Mommy and Abba chase after him, laughing. I smile at the sight — Simchi is just so gorgeous — and then turn to Tzippy and Sari. “What bags are we buying for school?” I ask. We sit in the grass near the pond to ponder this very deep topic.

“Well, I think I just need a tote,” Tzippy says. “Most girls at orientation had something simple and leather.”

I raise my eyebrows. “Leather? Good luck with that.”

Tzippy plucks a piece of grass. “Hey, I don’t mind doing faux leather, I’m not really interested in blowing three hundred dollars on something that will get banged up on the train and dirty from classroom floors. What about you guys?”

Sari shrugs. “Michal said people are into patterned backpacks, so I can probably still use my paint-splattered denim one from last year. And you, RaRa? You still gonna go with the floral one?”

I shake my head, unsure. “I can’t believe I didn’t discuss this with Hadas. I have no clue. Tzip, can I borrow your cell?”

She laughs and tickles me with a blade of grass.

“You bet. Left pocket.”

I dial Hadas, feeling strangely panicky. Which was not that strange, probably, considering I was going to a new school for the first time in my life. It makes sense to want to fit in….

“Hadas!”

“Rachel Ahuva!” she says happily and a feeling of warmth floods over me.

“Hadas, what school bag am I supposed to get? My bag from last year is a floral print. It’s only two years old and it’s super cute. Can I use it?” (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 719)