Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Turning Tides

As told to Leah Gebber

My mother-in-law is tall and big boned, with broad shoulders. Looking at her, I’ve always thought that if I threw a rope or two around this green-and-blue globe we live on and hung it over her arms, she’d take one heave and pull it right along after her, without even letting go of her pocketbook.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

It’s not just that I’m petite and slim and my shoulders look like they belong to a 12-year-old. It’s that I wasn’t made for pulling weights. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I had leukemia as a young teen; extended chemotherapy left its mark on my system. Maybe that’s just who I am — I tire easily, my stamina is short lived. And it doesn’t bother me; I’m happy to quietly make my way through life without heroics or dramatics. I certainly didn’t want to use my precious energy agonizing over my lack of ambition: I try to simply accept it as a piece of myself, and live accordingly. When I was in shidduchim, I knew I didn’t have the physical strength to do the work-plus-run-house thing that comes along with marrying a learner, so I looked for a solid ben Torah who was in the working world. It took a few years — at 21 or 22, most solid boys are still intent on learning. By the time they reach 24, it’s easier to find a good boy who has left yeshivah. I also had to find someone willing to overlook the fear engendered by my medical file, and instead accept the clean bill of health my doctors now gave me. Baruch Hashem, I found Levi, the youngest of six. He had just become a CPA and we settled down happily. Although my parents don’t have money, they offered to pay for cleaning help twice a week. “I’m paying to save your energy,” my mother told me, and we accepted their offer. Married life suited me perfectly. I’m on a special toxin-free diet and I put a lot of effort into cooking tasty, healthful meals. I rested each afternoon so that I was alert and with-it when Levi came home in the evening. I spent my mornings puttering around the house, decorating the drab walls of our small rental with needlepoints, sewing curtains, visiting my elderly aunts. “Nechama’s learning how to run a home,” my mother-in-law said of me, and for the first six months of our marriage she left me alone. But then, one Shabbos, as I deposited a tray of pickled herring in the kitchen, she cornered me. “Nisht Shabbos geredt, but there’s a career fair on Sunday.” I nodded. I’d heard of it; it was mainly geared for seminary returnees. As if she’d read my thoughts, my mother-in-law said, “Many married women go too.” I rinsed the fish forks off in the sink. “Mmm.” She turned, so that I was pinned between the sink and her ample girth. I’m claustrophobic, and for a moment my breath was stuck in my windpipe — it just refused to exit and I was left with a bubble of air and tension inside. After two seconds, three, I stepped sideways. Out. Breathless, I scuttled to the entrance of the kitchen. Did my panic antagonize her? When I look back, I’m still trying to find the places where I went wrong, where I could have done things differently.

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Not a Newspaper
Shoshana Friedman A deeper difference between newspapers and magazines
Services in Shards
Rabbi Moshe Grylak “Such a painful, malicious lie!”
The Pittsburgh Protests: All Politics All the Time
Yonoson Rosenblum The old rule — “no enemies on the left” — still applies
Danger: School Crossing
Eytan Kobre The hypocrisy of YAFFED’s assertion is breathtaking
Real Laughter and Real Tears
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger The two sides of a life lived with emunah
Work/Life Solutions with Eli Langer
Moe Mernick I was proud to be “that guy with the yarmulke”
Is Ktchong! a Mitzvah? When Prayer and Charity Collide
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman These cannot both be done effectively at the same time
An Honest Shidduch
Jacob L. Freedman “Baruch Hashem I’m cured, and this will be my secret”
A Blessing in Disguise
Riki Goldstein “I never thought the song would catch on as it has”
Ishay and Motti Strike a Common Chord
Riki Goldstein Bringing together two worlds of Jewish music
What’s your favorite Motzaei Shabbos niggun?
Riki Goldstein From the holy and separate back to the mundane
Rightfully Mine
Faigy Peritzman Don’t regret the job you didn’t land; it was never yours
Growing Greener Grass
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Nurture your blessings and watch them blossom
My Way or the High Way
Rebbetzin Debbie Greenblatt We know what we want — but do we know what He wants?