It was an extraordinary Shabbos together in the tzimmer, and it was over all too quickly. The driver was waiting and the children’s bags were packed, already set beside the door even before Tatty made Havdalah. 

“Mommy, please don’t go,” Benny whispered tearfully in his mother’s ear when she kissed him goodbye. “I want you to stay here!” 

Yehudit hugged her son tightly. “I know you do, Benny,” she murmured, stroking his cheek gently. “Daven for me to have hatzlachah and I’ll be back as soon as I can, with a big surprise for you.” 

“I don’t want a surprise. I want you,” he protested. “Why do you always go away? Other mothers don’t leave their children.” 

Yehudit stepped back as if she’d been stung. She searched his green eyes, so like her own. “You’ll understand some day,” she promised, “when you’re older. Do you think that I don’t want to be home with you and Tzipi and Tatty? There’s nothing that I want more, but we can’t always choose what we want to do.” 

Benny bit his lower lip and turned his face away from his mother. 

“Be brave, Benny,” she begged. “Don’t leave me like this.” 

Tzipi stepped closer to her mother. “He’ll be all right, Mommy,” she insisted. “We love the cousins in Bnei Brak. Benny has friends and he’s happy in cheder. Don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. Tatty is there when we need him, and either Cousin Mendel or his wife Rivka are always available. Do what you have to do and hurry back.” 

“Thank you, Tzipi.” Yehudit hugged her daughter close, marveling at the amazing way children grow into adults. “I appreciate it.” 

Outside, the car was honking. It was time to go. 

“Lechi l’shalom, Hudy,” Gedalya spoke softly in a low voice, his eyes saying much more than his few words. “Do your best, but be careful.” 

“I will,” she told him, adding, “when I come back, you’ll agree it was worth it all.” 

Tatty took his place in the backseat between Benny and Tzipi. It was a long drive home and their father’s comforting presence would help them work through their mixed feelings. It was consoling for him, too, to feel his children safe beside him. 

A strange heaviness descended on Gedalya. He didn’t understand why it should be harder this time than usual, but something about this parting was off. A dark premonition weighed on his heart as the driver started the car and drove away from the two little cottages. 

“What if Mommy doesn’t ever come back?” Benny hadn’t meant to say it aloud, but it was too late to take back the words. 

“Don’t say something like that!” Tzipi shrieked, reaching past her father to grab his shoulder and shake it. “Don’t even think it!”