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Lifetakes: A Girl Called Kaila

Esther Malka Goldschmidt

Strange to hear this woman recounting a piece of my past. How many times had I wandered up and down that road with my friends?

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

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I t wasn’t my dream job, but I was young and optimistic and I still believed that anything could happen.

(The fact that I’d taken this entry-level dead-end job was perhaps the greatest proof.) Maybe anything could happen, but day bled into day as I sat bored stiff in my swivel chair, and all that happened were papers and faxes and please-hold-for-my-boss. Not the most glamorous start to life as an independent adult in the real world.

But one day “something” did happen, and bored as I was by the monotony and the tedium, I almost missed it. There was the usual low hum of dull voices as people passed in and out of the office, the strident ring of the phone, the slow pace of the day when you look at the clock and think, wow, it’s only ten o’clock? Seven whole hours left… There were all those things, and there was also the couple waiting to speak to the manager.

This couple was unremarkable — a typical middle-class African-American husband and wife. They looked like every other couple who floated through this office every day, and to them I probably looked like every other robotic receptionist. They certainly spared no special interest for the bored summer intern as they waited for their appointment. 

But this was almost 15 years ago, in the pre-smartphone days, and when her husband became engrossed in conversation with another person present, his wife had nothing to occupy herself with. So she struck up a conversation with me.

“Do you live here?” she asked. I nodded, uncertain how to react to her interest.

“I used to live around here,” she shared nostalgically. “On Vine Street. Do you know it? There’s a Jewish girls’ high school there.”

“Oh, of course!” I said, surprised. I had attended that girls’ high school — Bais Kaila of Lakewood.

“It was such a nice neighborhood,” she reminisced. “I used to sit outside on my front steps in the nice weather. I remember how the girls from the school used to take walks during their breaks when it was nice out. Pairs of girls, walking up and down the street to the dead end and back.”

Strange to hear this woman recounting a piece of my past. How many times had I wandered up and down that road with my friends? (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 540)

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