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Room for One

Esther Kurtz

“Look at me for what I am. I’m a senior accountant at my firm, I pay taxes, pay my own health insurance, pay my own expenses, and to you I’m still a child. Because I’m not married, I’m a child. Does that make sense?”

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

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AGE INAPPROPRIATE “Ma, I’m 31, and you treat me like a teenager. What time I come home, when I should call, what I can or can’t do for yuntiff. Pretend I got married at 20. I’d be married for ten years now, probably have, I don’t know, four kids — would you tell me what time to come home, what I should do for yuntiff? No, I’d probably be making yuntiff myself by now!”

"Idon’t know where I’m putting everyone,” Chava Konig said into the phone. She spoke an octave higher than necessary. “There’s no room. Plain and pashut. My house is not the Beis Hamikdash.” She twirled the phone cord around her fingers, enjoying the sensation it gave her — feeling it tighten, cut off circulation, and then unwinding it, feeling the release as blood pooled back into her fingers. You couldn’t do this with a cordless, she always told her kids.

“What about Shevy’s room?” her sister on the other end of the line suggested.

“You’re right!” Chava said. “I didn’t think of moving Shevy, her room is the biggest after the master — I could fit a whole family in there!”

“One problem,” her sister interrupted her. “Where are you putting Shevy?”

Chava frowned and wound the cord around her two middle fingers. “That I’ll have to think about.” The front door opened with a loud creak; it only creaked like that if it was opened all the way, and only one person opened it like that. “I’ll talk to you later, Shevy’s finally home — she’s working like a ferd this tax season.”

Chava placed the phone in its cradle as Shevy, her single daughter, came into the kitchen,

“How was work, sheifeleh?” she asked. She already had a steaming mug of tea steeping, and three crinkle cookies on a napkin. Shevy sank into the corner chair and rolled her shoulders slowly several times, eyes shut. After a minute she looked at her mother.

“Nu, how was work?”

Shevy waved her hand, then cupped the mug lovingly. “Tax season, it’s crazy, nothing new.”

“It’s a quarter to twelve. That’s new.”

“They have more clients this year and didn’t make any new hires, so it’s bit rougher than usual. But the way the calendar works this year is good — the deadline is before Pesach, so I can enjoy it like a person, not a shmatteh.”

Chava tsked for her daughter’s sake; Shevy shrugged it off again.

“They actually have a company policy that if you’re in the office past nine, dinner is on the house. Past eleven, they comp a hotel.”

There was silence on the other end. But Shevy knew her mother was still there, she could hear her heavy breathing. The heavy breathing that comes with tears. She almost wanted to regret what she said, but her own breathing was deep and steady and empowered

Chava raised her brow. “Such fancy perks, how come I never knew?”

“I never said, because I never used them.”

Shevy picked up the mug and inhaled the steam, letting the heat flow through her nose and spread throughout her body. “Aaaah,” she exhaled. “Who needs a hotel when I have this?” And she took a sip. She put it down and looked at her mother deliberately.

“Speaking of food and hotels, I was talking to Leah on the way home.”

Chava leaned in; Shevy’s best friend Leah was usually good fodder, though she got her get a month ago, so the yentishkeit was dying down.

“Her family’s going to Florida for Pesach.”

Chava nodded, not surprised; the entire Treitel clan went somewhere every Succos and Pesach.

“Leah thought she’d need a hand with the kids, what with a new place and schedule, and some company for herself — she doesn’t want to be the fifth wheel the entire yuntiff…” Shevy trailed off at this point.

“And what—”

“She asked if I could come with her,” Shevy said quickly. “All expenses paid.”

Chava stood back. Yom Tov not with family? She twitched her shoulder after too long a pause. “Do what you want.”

And she knew that Shevy knew that what she’d really meant was, If you dare. (excerpted)

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