J acob was glad to see his breakfast waiting for him on the table. He was also glad Mrs. Sommers wasn’t there. Washing his hands with a cup would be too difficult to explain to her. Since he arrived at the Matthews’s home, he’d hidden the fact that he was Jewish. Idy had told him that the outside world didn’t always take kindly to Jews. Jacob figured if Queen Esther could hide her Jewishness, just as Idy, on several occasions, had told him in the story of Purim, so could he. It made living at the Matthews’s place seem adventurous.

The Renards knew that he and Idy were Jewish, but somehow they’d known that from the start. Maybe Idy had told them, but like so many other things she had no memory of it. It still surprised him and Idy that in all the years they’d lived at the Renards, Shabbos had always been a day off for them.

Jacob ate the bread and jam and drank the large glass of milk. It didn’t bother him that there was nothing hot to eat, as he wouldn’t have eaten it anyway. Idy had told him that cooking wasn’t allowed on Shabbos. Another reason Jacob was glad Mrs. Sommers wasn’t present.

The door behind him opened just as Jacob finished the one part of bentshing he knew by heart.

“Good, I guess, afternoon,” Mrs. Sommers said cheerfully. “I suppose you had a good rest.”

“I did,” Jacob replied.

“That’s important. A boy your age needs his sleep. At least eight hours a night.”

This information surprised Jacob. He was strong and healthy and hardly slept more than five hours.

Mrs. Sommers looked at the empty plate and glass. “I’ll take care of those. You go and relax.”

Jacob smiled. “Thank you, ma’am.”

“You’re such a gentleman, Jacob. Your mother raised you well.”

Jacob tongue went dry, and the smile on his face faltered.

Mrs. Sommer’s eyes moistened. “Oh, I’m sorry, Jacob. Moe told me you’re an orphan. That was terribly insensitive of me.”

“That’s okay,” Jacob said. He hadn’t ever heard anyone refer to his mother before. Even Idy spoke only about their house. It was as if their parents had never existed.

Mrs. Sommers clasped her hands to her heart. “You know, Jacob, if you ever want to talk about anything or need advice, I’d be honored to listen and offer my help.”

Jacob swallowed. “Thank you.”

“Why don’t you run along? Lunch will be waiting on the table for you. There’s no need to rush back.”

Jacob wanted to explore the grounds, and with the sun shining bright, today seemed a perfect opportunity.

“Is it okay if I walk the grounds and look around?”

Mrs. Sommers nodded. “Go ahead.”

“Thank you.” Jacob was almost out the door when he heard Mrs. Sommers voice again.

“Have fun, Jacob.”

Fun? Jacob realized he’d never had fun in his life. In fact, he had no idea what it even meant. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 657)