S o I’m on my way home from cheder, and I’m in a really big hurry, and who steps out right in front of me so I can’t pass by? Zalman, who else? You really have to know Zalman to appreciate what that entails. You see, I’m taking a shortcut between buildings and “the path is narrow but Zalman is definitely not.”

You might ask why I don’t just turn around and go back the way I came. Especially since Rova Zayin in Ashdod is full of paths between apartment buildings, through parks, even under certain buildings through their basements where tenants park their cars. Well, I can’t do that because I know it would hurt his feelings. Zalman is a special kid, you understand? I’ve seen Zalman when somebody said or did something mean to him, and it can break your heart to see his eyes cloud over and his lower lip quiver instead of stretching out in his trademark ear-to-ear smile.

So I stop. “Hey, Zalman.”

“Meir!” He has a slow way of speaking, it sounds kind of like “Mmmayrrr.”

I pinch his cheek as if he were a little kid instead of a boy two years older than me. His smile is like sunshine, but my patience is pretty thin. I bounce on my feet. “I have to go,” I tell him slowly.

Zalman’s face is a window into his heart. First he blinks and looks confused, then he’s sad and disappointed.

I pull my last toffee out of my pocket and shove it into his pudgy hand. “This is for you.”

Zalman’s eyes light up; you’d think he just won the lottery. While he’s concentrating on opening the wrapper, I wriggle past him. “Mmmayrrr!” he calls after me and I wave without turning around.

Finally, I reach our building. Out of habit I check the mailbox and grab a few letters addressed to my parents. There’s another delay at the elevator. A flashing button indicates that someone on another floor is holding the door open. Maybe one of our neighbors is waiting for all her kids to squeeze in before closing it, or else someone’s been shopping and needs a few trips to lug all the heavy boxes and bags from the elevator across the hall to their apartment.

It’s taking forever so I decide to just use the stairs. I fly up one floor and then another and another. We live on the top floor where the sign on the door says “Weiss Family.” I burst through the door and run straight for the kitchen, looking around expectantly while disengaging from both my school bag and jacket simultaneously.

“Shalom, Meir. How was school?” Ima is up to her elbows in challah dough. Her look conveys her disapproval of my indecorous entrance.

“Shalom.” I remember my manners. “Baruch Hashem, I had a good day. Ima, where is she?”

Just this morning Ima told me that I’m getting a new sibling today. At last! There are advantages to being an only child, but there are also disadvantages. If I had a choice, I’d ask for a brother my age, but my parents aren’t so young and you have to take what you can get. We have this big apartment, obviously meant for a large, lively family. When I’m the only kid living here, it almost echoes with emptiness. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 690)