“H oney, these are not my socks!”

“Check Shimmy’s drawer,” I called out to my husband from under my pillow. It was 5:45 in the morning.

“How could anyone confuse a five-year-old’s pair of socks with that of a grown man?”

“It happens.… Leah doesn’t see that well.”

Leah helps us in the house each week. Among other household tasks, she tackles our laundry piles.

I turned over in bed, closed my eyes, and prayed that he would find his socks and the morning would progress calmly. I heard the front door open and close. Ah, the gift of good beginnings. The socks had been located within minutes of the search-and-rescue operation’s commencement.

And then, “Ma! I have no pants in my drawer!” My ten-year old. By this time, I was in the kitchen, flipping pancakes, sipping hot coffee, and feeling optimistic.

“Check Ari’s drawer!”

After all, even though they’re four years apart, both boys wear navy pants. That can get confusing to a 78-year-old woman with poor eyesight.

“There’s nothing in his drawer!”

“So check Rivka’s closet.” My eight-year-old daughter’s navy school skirts are the same shade as his blue pants. They could have been tucked in there by mistake.

“They’re not there!” he called from inside her dark room. And then two voices yelled out, “Get out! You woke me up!” And then a third voice: my baby, starting to cry. I continued to flip pancakes, but now I was gulping my coffee, too. Brain, move faster! Where were his pants?

“Found them,” he called out. The pants were hanging in my husband’s closet. I released my breath and let my shoulders relax.

Leah started coming to us over seven years ago once a week for 20 shekels an hour. With each passing year and every new baby, she has become more attached to our family (and more expensive). She was here to help with the kids when my husband flew to America for brain surgery. She was here, folding clothes and packing boxes during all four of our house moves. She rocked crying babies in their strollers and cooked gefilte fish and coriander chicken amid turning jump ropes and flying footballs.

During calmer times, she takes initiative. She washes out all the disposable cups and plates, wraps up and stores away an apple with one remaining bite, mends holes in socks, and scrubs the stained clothing that I have relegated to the garbage.

I doubt she has ever boiled up a log of Ungar’s premade gefilte fish. Everything is made from scratch, nothing is wasted. Once, she took me to a fish store in Beit Shemesh where she picked out a live carp, gave it to me still thrashing in the bag, and then arrived at my house with special tools to show me how to make fresh gefilte fish. She came with a knife, which had clearly survived a few wars to slice open the fish. I could barely get the knife through the tough flesh, and my husband fared no better. So we sat back and watched Leah’s strong hands rip open and slice the fish as she had been doing for more than 50 years.

I called her early one morning when we were living in a fifth-floor apartment. “Leah, you don’t have to come today. The elevator is broken. It will be too much for you to get up the five flights of stairs.”

“What?!” she said, laughing. “I’m right outside your door!” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 569)