April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chapter 1: Heading to the Reunion

Editor’s Note: The Jewish Link is proud to present “Family Foundations,” our first serial fiction series by leading author Ariella Aaron. Please read on for the first installment and get to know the Taubman family.

It was officially forty-five minutes into their grand family vacation, and Ari Taubman already had a grand headache.

“We’ve been driving for two hours already. You sure you didn’t get lost?”

“Dad,” he responded, trying to sound patient, “it hasn’t even been an hour since we left.”

“What are you talking about? You pulled out of our house at 12:15.”

Ari gritted his teeth. “That was the first time.”

“Larry, don’t you remember?” His mother piped up from behind. “We were already by Route 4 when I remembered our bag with the medications. Ari had to drive all the way back.”

“Ah, that’s right.”

Ari’s eyebrows puckered as he threw a brief glance at his father, sitting next to him. Had he really forgotten?

Behind him, Debbie muttered, “In our days it was the kids who kept asking when we’re going to get there.”

Hah. All three of their kids were fully engrossed in their phones, including his oldest, Jake, who’d just come back from Shana Aleph in Israel and had loudly invited everyone to join him in watching the parsha shiur Rav Shmu had just posted. (None of his siblings had taken him up on the offer.) Based on Jake’s frequent guffaws, either Rav Shmu was a stand-up comedian or Jake had moved on from parsha to something more interesting.

Ari grinned. “Hey, Dad, maybe we should play the license plate game.”

“Good idea!” His father straightened his back. “Kids! Who’s up for a game?”

“No, it was a joke,” Ari mumbled. Unplugging the kids when they still had a half-hour to go was definitely not a good idea.

Too late. “Huh?” Tamara looked up from her phone, blinking. “Are we there already?”

“Not yet.”

“Where are we going again?” Jake asked. “Harryville?”

“Henryville,” Ari said.

Eli snickered at his brother. “You’re the only Harry around here.”

Jake slapped him. “Fine, Henryville. Seriously, Dad, does that place even exist? It sounds made-up to me.”

“Yeah, Dad, you sure that Airbnb guy didn’t put one over on you?” Eli asked.

“Aunt Yaffa was the one who made the arrangements,” Debbie said. Which wasn’t really an answer; Ari knew she just wanted to make this point clear, so that if anyone had any complaints about anything related to this vacation, they’d know whose fault it most definitely wasn’t.

“The pictures sure look beautiful,” his mother added. “Did you see that gorgeous pool?”

Ari didn’t need the glance in his rearview mirror to see his wife’s reaction to that. That’s what you get when you spend a fortune of everyone else’s money.

To be fair, as Ari had tried to point out to Debbie, when Yaffa had chosen the luxury secluded house-with-a-pool, she’d assumed it was their parents who’d be footing the bill. It was Ari who’d suggested he, Yaffa and Ilana split the rental fee. It had just seemed like the right thing to do, especially when he’d realized just how much two weeks of Yaffa’s high-class cabin in the forest would be costing.

He glanced once again at his father, who had slumped back into his seat. He was the one who lived closest to his parents; he saw them most often, and realized how much they were aging. His sisters could grumble all they want; it wasn’t fair to make an elderly retiree shell out $20 grand. Even if it was for their 50th anniversary.

“The pool.” Jake harrumphed loudly. Ari sighed and braced himself.

“Grandma, I’m just letting you know right now that I’m not going mixed swimming. I don’t do that anymore.”

Eli turned innocent eyes on his brother. “You don’t? Gee, why have you kept this quiet until now?”

Jake glared, as their grandmother said calmly, “Don’t worry. I’m sure Yaffa and Shmuel will make the pool as kosher as a pool can possibly be.”

“Yeah, well…” Wind taken out of his sails, Jake spluttered, “They’d better.”

“Oh, shut up, Harryville,” Eli said.

***

“Wait a sec, the couches are green?”

Yaffa, who’d been frowning at the monster TV screen taking up an entire wall of the Airbnb’s living room, turned to her daughter.

“What’s wrong with green?”

Shani’s hand was running rapidly through her hair. “I thought they were gray! In the pictures they totally looked gray! Didn’t they, Tzippy?”

Her younger sister nodded. “Uh huh. Totally.”

“And you can’t sit on a green couch?” Yaffa asked, even though she thought she saw where this was going.

“Ma! The colors!” Shani wailed. “I worked so hard to coordinate everything for the party, and now it’s completely ruined!”

Yaffa took a breath. Shani had begged to be put in charge of decorations for the big anniversary party, and Yaffa had long since regretted giving in. Somehow, the project had completely taken over the entire family’s life. Yaffa still cringed over the fact that she’d spent an entire week embroiled in the Great Tablecloth Texture Debate.

“Who cares if the couch doesn’t match?”

It was one of those reasonable arguments that no self-respecting 16-year-old would let her mother get away with.

“The color palette is rose gold with black and gray! Imagine what it will look like with ugly green couches right in the middle of everything!”

Shani started pacing furiously, just as Shmuel walked in from the kitchen.

“It’s a self-cleaning oven, so we can kasher it,” he told Yaffa. “But I wouldn’t use the induction stovetop. Good thing we brought our own. And I’d personally recommend covering the counters with tinfoil; people are definitely going to forget and put down hot pots.”

Yaffa made a face. “Yeah, that’ll go over well with my family. “Yaffa, did you think it was Pesach?” My family already thinks we’re crazy.”

Shmuel shrugged. “So let them.” He looked around, and caught sight of his oldest daughter muttering to herself. “Uh, speaking of crazy…?” He raised an eyebrow.

Yaffa sighed and shook her head.

Shani suddenly clapped her hands. “I got it!” she cried. “We’ll change the color of the couches! It shouldn’t be too hard. We can order new slipcovers on Amazon, I just need the measurements … Ma, you didn’t bring a tape measure, did you?”

“We are NOT ordering—”

She was interrupted by the front door opening. “Hello? Anyone home?”

Yaffa grinned and ran for the door. “Ilana!” She wrapped her sister in a long hug. “It’s sooo amazing to see you! How was the flight?”

Shmuel was shaking hands with Danny, while the kids gathered around staring shyly at their Israeli cousins.

“The flight was fine,” Ilana said. “Y’know, long. Gosh, I can’t believe it’s been three years since we’ve all been here. Since Eli Taubman’s bar mitzvah. Look at how everyone’s grown!” Her eyes swept over Yaffa’s six kids.

“And look at you two,” Yaffa replied, nodding at her twin niece and nephew. “My goodness, Matan, how did you get so tall? It’s gotta be something in the Israeli air, because it’s definitely not our genes! And you, too, Moriah. You look gorgeous.”

Ilana smiled as she put a hand on each of her twins. “These two are leaving me next year. Matan’s starting his army service and Moriah’s doing sherut leumi out in Beer Sheva. I don’t know what I’ll do without them.”

Yaffa caught the sadness in her sister’s voice. That meant an empty nest for Ilana. She’d tried for years to have more children, but none of the treatments had worked.

“You’re going to the army?” Eleven-year-old Binyamin’s eyes were wide. “That is so cool. You’ll get a gun and everything?”

“A big one.” Matan’s English had a hint of an accent. “If you come to visit me, I’ll show it to you.”

“Cool!” Binyamin breathed. “Ma, can we? Let’s go this winter break! Florida’s been getting boring anyway.”

“Winter’s a long time away,” Yaffa said, forcing a smile. It was normal for a young boy to be impressed by a soldier, right?

She noticed Shani staring at Moriah curiously. With her free-flowing hair and completely makeup-free face, her simple, natural look was the exact opposite of Shani’s.

“This place is nice,” Moriah said, stepping into the living room. “Ooh, I love the couches! Such a cheerful color!

Shani’s eyes narrowed. “That’s going to change soon,” she said.

“Come,” Yaffa said quickly, “let me show you where you’re staying. Shmuel, help them with their suitcases; they’re probably exhausted.”

As Yaffa led them to the second floor, she commented to Ilana, “Would you ever have imagined, back when we were kids, that one day your son would be in the Israeli army?”

“Would you have imagined your kids looking like this?” Ilana countered, nodding at Binyamin’s big black kippah.

Yaffa laughed. “Neither of us were supposed to turn out the way we did, huh? We were supposed to be like good boy Ari, buying a house two blocks away from Mommy and Daddy and sending our kids to the same schools we went to.”

Instead, she reflected, they’d each chosen their own path—and the results were quite evident in the next generation.

And now, they were about to spend the next two weeks together, in one big, happy family reunion.


Ariella Aaron is an internationally published writer with a unique talent for writing stories that are entertaining and thought-provoking, with characters who are eminently relatable. A former resident of Northern New Jersey, Ariella has now transplanted her family to Israel, where she is happily living the dream of raising her brood in our homeland.

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