“S o, Zeesy, azoi. We’ve landed, baruch Hashem! Er… one minute.” Leibel stretches out his arm to grab the suitcase but retracts it just as fast. This isn’t his. Suitcases tumble down the chute with a thud and passengers crowd around the belt, waiting to swoop.

“Zeesy… where was I? You okay back home?”

“We’re fine, Abba. Excited you’re back! Baila’s busy baking and stuff.”

“Great. That’s great. Could you—”

“Oh, and where does Ima want us to put the girl? Baila suggested the machsan, but I told her that’s crazy. I’ve seen mice down there!”

“No. Not down there. Of course not. Where’s Baila? Can I talk to her?”

Before Leibel can say another word, he hears Baila barking at the other end of the line.

“Really, Zeesy! Stop disappearing! There’s so much to do, and they’ll be here soon!”

“I haven’t been disappearing! Aunt Blimi called and then Tzippy, and Miri — they all want to know what—”

“Okay, I get it.” Baila’s voice is shrill. “Sooo exciting, having this girl from the middle of nowhere move in. A bit of help around the house would have been more appreciated, but—”

Leibel raises his voice a little. “Can anyone hear me there? I asked for Baila!”

“Sure, she’s here,” Zeesy replies. The bounce has gone out of her voice. “I’ll pass her the phone. Wait, Abba! Can the girl stay with me in my room?”

Leibel pauses and rubs his eyes. He’d been hoping that Baila would be the one to ask. “I guess that could work for now, yes. Now give me Baila, please… Baila, is that you?”

“Yes, Abba. I’m glad you’re calling. We weren’t sure exactly when you were landing. Please tell Ima that there’s a cake in the oven and meatballs for supper. The girl will enjoy those, no?”

Leibel looks around for Leah and Daina. They seem to have disappeared in a sea of milling passengers.

“Mamah isn’t next to me right now,” he says. “I’ve don’t know about the food, but the most important thing is to get the floors done. I don’t want Mamah to have to start doing sponja as soon as we walk in.”

“The place is sparkling. I’ve been cleaning all morning. And Zeesy was thinking of—”

Leibel grunts and turns over a large black suitcase as it passes. No. Not this one. Transferring the cell phone to his other ear, he loses a string of words to the noisy terminal.

“—so it will feel heimish when you get here.”

“Sure. Sure. Shkoyach. Great. Oy, there’s our suitcase. We’ll be there soon!”

 

Daina pulls herself out of the taxi slowly. It isn’t just that her feet feel wooden after sitting for so long, or that her head is tired and stuffy. It is the mix of narrow streets and weird people all around her, storefronts with cluttered displays and the strange, square letters stretched out on the signs above their stores.

The writing is faintly familiar, as though fingers in her mind can almost touch them. Almost. She cannot place the memory. Clutching onto her small backpack, Daina feels grateful for a piece of home, no matter how distant and unreal it is now.

“Come, Dina,” says Leah, beckoning for her to follow.

It’s Daina. She grits her teeth. D-A-I-N-A.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 620)