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Center Stage: Chapter 44

Gila Arnold

“It feels funny, doesn’t it? Going somewhere so off-the-beaten-Jewish path. Everyone will be staring at us like animals in the zoo”

Wednesday, February 06, 2019




he plane began its descent. Huvy pressed her face to the window. Bulgaria! The only other country she’d ever been to was Eretz Yisrael, and that was familiar territory. Bulgaria was so, so foreign… she couldn’t help but give a little shudder at the thought that she was about to step foot in such an alien land.
“Cold?” asked Rina, sitting next to her. “Want my sweater?”
Huvy shook her head. “I’m not cold. Just…” How could she express it without sounding childish? 
But to her surprise, her mother seemed to read her thoughts. “It feels funny, doesn’t it? Going somewhere so off-the-beaten-Jewish path. Everyone will be staring at us like animals in the zoo.” Rina grimaced. 
“I thought you liked being the center of attention,” Huvy blurted. She reddened. 
But her mother cocked her head to the side, as if genuinely mulling over what Huvy said. After a moment, in that confiding way she had that made you feel she was about to reveal a million-dollar secret to you alone, she said, “Sometimes, yeah. But there’s good attention and bad attention. Besides, even the most extroverted person can’t handle being in the limelight all of the time. Don’t you think?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Huvy mumbled. 
“No,” Rina agreed. “You wouldn’t.” She paused, then said, curiously, “But you don’t need the attention, do you?”
Huvy shrugged. “Guess not. D’you think that makes me strange?”
Rina looked at her for a moment. “No. It makes you liberated.”
Huvy nearly choked. Was this her mother speaking?
“It’s not a good thing to want to be front and center stage?” she asked. “So, what are we doing here? With all this?”
“Hashem gave us talents,” Rina said stoutly, “and we’re using them in a tzniyusdig way, to inspire other frum women.”
Huvy nodded. “That’s just what Gabriella said the other day.” And then, because she knew she’d made a mistake as soon as Gabriella’s name had left her mouth, and she didn’t want to ruin this magical moment with her mother, she quickly added, “But not me. I don’t have any of the talents the other girls do. So what am I doing here?”
Rina looked at her for a moment, as if contemplating her reply. Huvy found herself holding her breath. Just don’t lie, please, don’t fake it because you think it’s what you’re supposed to say. 
And then her mother flashed her megawatt smile and said, “Isn’t it obvious? You’re here to keep me sane.”
“Dobre dolshi v Bulgariya!” Gabriella announced with a grand sweep of her hand, as the cast made their way out of the airport.
“Ooooh!” That was Dini. “Do you speak Bulgarian, Gabriella?” 
Gabriella wiggled her eyebrows mysteriously as the girls squealed. 
Rina bit her lip. She could also have typed “Welcome to Bulgaria” into Google Translate. But, she admitted grudgingly, it was a nice touch. 
“It looks so foreign here!” gushed Malka, as the girls stepped out of the airport terminal into the fresh, cold air. 
“Looks like an airport,” muttered Huvy. 
Rina couldn’t help but smile — until she noticed her daughter catch Gabriella’s eye, saw Gabriella wink at her. Rina turned away.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 629)

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