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The Gatekeeper’s Daughter: Chapter 21

Esther Teichtal

Daina thinks she can recognize some of the faces from her welcoming party not that long ago. And Tzippy, of course, is a regular visitor here, being married to Leah’s son. As for the rest — at some point, they all blend into one amorphous mass and the noise is beginning to wear her down

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

I

 

A

 

s soon as she steps into the Guttmans’ apartment, Daina realizes something is afoot. Zeesy is in the kitchen, placing squares of freshly baked cake into silver cases, and Tzippy, a sister-in-law, is folding napkins into artistic fans, while an unknown girl rocks Tzippy’s baby to sleep in the hallway. Irritation gnaws at her. She has so much homework to do, but this place is abuzz. What’s going on here?

Daina peeps into the dining room. Baila is perched on a stool, swathed in an unfinished dress and staring in frustration at the ceiling, like a five-foot-four pincushion with an attitude. Leah has her mouth full of pins, but she removes them and waves Daina in with a tense face.

“Shalom! We have simchah tonight! Baila become kallah!!”

Kallah? It sounds like that yummy bread Leah baked for their Sabbath meal, but Daina has a feeling that’s not what she’s referring to. Baila enlightens her as she simulates a ring on her finger and an imaginary gown.

“You mean bride? You bride?”

Baila confirms with a smug smile.

“Oh.” Daina freezes. What is she meant to say?

“Who? Who you marry, Baila?” Daina asks, tilting her head and twirling her long blonde ponytail.

“Yosef Chaim.” Baila places her hands on her hips, assessing the way the skirt falls.

“Ah. You have picture? she asks some more, wondering where this guy has been all this time.

Baila peers over her should to flick a stray thread. She says nothing.

 “She only met him yesterday,” Zeesy whispers.

Leah jabs one last pin into the skirt’s hem, stands up, and rubs her hand in satisfaction. “Very good chassan! It is a big simchah!”

Daina stares at Baila. She seems excited. Not like someone about to tie herself to a complete unknown.

Last year, in Teplidskai, her class was stunned when a teacher left to get married. Rumor had it, she had flown to Chicago to wed a man she had met only twice, a man she had met on vacation. Motina had tried explaining how that made sense. Almost.

Ms. Kazlauskas had been a lonely, middle-aged woman, with no family to support her. She was tired of teaching, and it was hardly a secret that good Lithuanian men were as scarce as snow in summer, and many women tried their fortunes elsewhere. But Baila is young. Daina’s eyes crease in puzzlement. Why would a girl do such a thing?

Before Daina can ask any more, Baila shoots off a string of commentary in her own tongue and Daina feels lost again. She wanders off to the kitchen.

 

Four hours later, Daina is back at the kitchen sink, scrubbing the serving platters and glasses that keep piling up. Zeesy is on top of the drinks and refreshments, making sure there’s enough on the tables. The dining room is swarming with men, and Baila’s room is full to bursting with bright-eyed, chatty women. Daina thinks she can recognize some of the faces from her welcoming party not that long ago. And Tzippy, of course, is a regular visitor here, being married to Leah’s son. As for the rest — at some point, they all blend into one amorphous mass and the noise is beginning to wear her down.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 625)

 

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