"Y our brother?” I breathe out.

Perfect Shiri has a brother at the Early Years?

“Yeah,” she says nonchalantly. “What are you doing here, Naomi?”

Before I can respond, a tiny boy streaks across the room and leaps into Shiri’s arms.

Yellow hair between the leather sleeves of her coat.

Ushi.

She nuzzles his head and drops him lightly on the floor beside her.

“Bye, bye,” he says to me.

“You know him?” Shiri asks.

“I’m his carer on Sundays,” I say, my voice croaking a little. “We had a great time today.”

“Did you?” She addresses the question to Ushi and he nods very fast, four times.

“Great, munchkin,” she says, and she takes his hand in her tan glove.

“Bye, Naomi,” she calls over her shoulder, “Thanks for taking care of him today.”

And they are gone.

Not a blush, no hemming and hawing, just thanks, taking responsibility for this child who is so obviously different. How is she so straight about it, so unflustered, so normal?

I stand near the coat hooks for a moment, fiddling with the zipper on my coat. So Princess Charming’s life is not as charmed as I thought. She has a little brother with Down syndrome, who is sweetness itself but also a bounding ball of energy and often super challenging.

A boy who is tiny for his age and developmentally delayed and will never be perfect like Shiri.

The zipper snags on the side of my coat.

If even Shiri Diamant’s life is not perfect, is anyone’s?



Dear Daddy,

The harpist is the beginning of new things, grand things, original things… A saxophonist and an accordionist join your band too. You want us to meet the new group. To meet the new you, really, I think afterwards.

Instead of dinner at Chai Thai, we come to the shul on the corner of Harbor Street. That’s where your band practices. Your friend the gabbai gives you free rein of the attic, the room we once dubbed the “nursing home for old chairs.” You’ve cleared it of aging furniture now, the chair we loved, the one that swivelled too fast, gone to the dump with the others…

Rafi and I sit off to the side, and the smell in the room — woodsy, musty, with a hint of old seforim — takes me away. I close my eyes and I’m half my age, singing and tapping to the music from the old karaoke machine, a carefree girl who doesn’t know the harsh, jagged edges of a broken home…

Ba-dum-tss. Mikey gives a welcoming bang on the drums. The others start up too, tuning instruments, trying them out. I spot the new players, big, strapping men both. You are almost lost beside them, in their loud manner, big-throated laughs. I shudder.

The room darkens. In the sloping attic window, night chases the sun away.

It is scary and beautiful all the same.

Like your band.

You step up onto some crates in the middle of the room and throw us a smile. And you, Dad — quiet, unobtrusive, modest — take the stage…

The band is arranged in a semi-circle around you, a kind of halo. It’s all for you, the whole band exists for the singer, I muse, and I watch you assume center stage easily, with a confident little swagger.

Who are you? I want to scream. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 687)