April 20, 2024
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April 20, 2024
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Chapter 13 Summary: Yaffa and Ari meet with their parents’ accountant, and are shocked to discover that their parents have investments worth $15 million.

Ari made Hamotzi and handed the challah around. His mother and Moriah were joining them tonight for the Shabbos meal (Yaffa had gone home to her family); it was his first time seeing his mother since their meeting with the accountant yesterday.

Last night, he’d sat down with Debbie and told her about the meeting. Like him, she’d been shocked. But, unlike him, she’d moved much more quickly into the elated stage.

“But that solves all our problems!” she’d cried. “All of the savings we lost—for college, for weddings—now we have the money again!”

He’d immediately tried to bring her down to earth. “No, we don’t. I don’t think we can exactly ask my parents to pay Jake’s YU tuition. They kept this a secret from us; they clearly didn’t want to take on that role.”

She’d waved that off. “Yeah, but don’t you see? It’s the future expectations that make a difference. We can stretch ourselves, take out loans, go into debt, whatever, in the short term, if we don’t have to worry about the long term.”

Now, he could see that Debbie was having a hard time restraining herself from bringing up the subject with his mother.

“So, Mom, I heard that Ari and Yaffa met with your accountant the other day,” she commented casually as she passed her mother-in-law the fish platter.

Ari shot her a look, as Gail said, “Yes, they did. It was very sweet of them to care. Yaffa’s been helping me with my bills, too. I’m really so bad with these things; Dad always takes care of our finances, you know.”

“I hear he’s done a good job with it, too,” Debbie said.

Ari caught the look of bemused interest on his kids’ faces, while Moriah was staring curiously at Debbie. (Ilana! He suddenly remembered. He hadn’t shared the news with her; had Yaffa?)

He cleared his throat. “Anyone have a nice thought to share?” he asked. “Jake?”

If anything could distract Debbie, it was a dvar Torah by Jake.

“I heard a great pshat yesterday from Uncle Shmuel about—”

Debbie immediately grimaced. “How much longer is this learning with Uncle Shmuel going to go on?”

“Dunno. He spoke about whether we’ll be able to work out a learning time when I’m back in Israel. He’s amazing, the way he’s been making time for me.”

“The way he’s been brainwashing you,” she muttered.

Jake bristled. “No one’s been brainwashing me.”

“Yeah?” she shot back. “I overheard you talking on the phone the other day. You were saying how you wish you could stay in yeshiva for a third year, too.”

Jake flung his head back. “And what’s wrong with that?”

“Because you need to get started on your education!”

“In Israel, everyone waits a few years before starting university,” Moriah commented.

“That’s different,” Debbie said. “You have the army.”

“I think I’ll join the army after my year in yeshiva,” Eli piped up. “Would that make you happier, Ma?”

Debbie ignored him. Pointing at Jake, she said, “All I’m saying is, you seem to be very enamored of your Uncle Shmuel and the way he did things, but you don’t realize that everything has a cost. Yaffa is always complaining about the debt they still carry from their kollel years.”

“Does she?” Gail asked. “I never heard her talk about that.”

From the way Debbie’s head instantly swiveled to his mother, Ari knew she was wondering the same thing he was. Had they known, would they have helped?

“Maybe she didn’t want you to worry about her,” Ari said carefully.

“Maybe she didn’t want you to feel obligated to help her out, when it might be difficult for you,” Debbie added, with a gleam in her eye.

As much as he didn’t appreciate Debbie’s lack of subtlety, Ari found himself waiting for his mother’s reaction.

“That’s sweet of her,” Gail replied calmly. “But I don’t know why she’d feel that way. Dad has always believed in letting the kids handle their own money affairs.”

***

Ilana and Leah passed out pieces of construction paper and placed buckets of markers on the tables. As the children began to color a picture of “Saba Eliezer and the Gezer,” the book Ilana had just read to them, Leah said quietly, “I’m going to miss you when you leave. How will I do story time without you?”

Ilana crinkled her brow. “Who said I’m leaving?”

Leah looked at her in surprise. “Well, I just assumed. You’re still going to have time to volunteer in the library once you’re busy with your PhD research?”

Ilana picked up a marker from a nearby table, uncapped it and recapped it. She wasn’t sure why she was so startled by Leah’s assumption, but she was. Give up her library job? Would she?

C’mon, Ilana, haven’t you been embarrassed by this volunteer job for years? How many times have you kvetched to Danny that it’s utterly beneath your skills, intelligence and qualifications to be wasting your time reading books to 4-year-olds?

And yet … she glanced at the children, their brows furrowed as they colored the giant carrot on their papers. Her heart warmed at the sight of them. Yes, she’d always had a soft spot for little kids. And then there was Leah, her co-volunteer for years, who’d been by her side through the ups and downs of her fertility challenges.

Ilana sat down on one of the small kiddie chairs, still playing with the marker in her hand. There was no denying that this place felt much more like home than the university she’d visited the other day.

“I don’t plan on giving this up,” she said, coming to her decision aloud. “I’ll just cut back on my hours, that’s all.”

“Hah, we’ll see how long that lasts.”

Leah’s knowing smile made Ilana defensive.

“Really, it shouldn’t be a problem at all. I can dedicate as much or as little time to my research as I choose. Besides, it’s not as if I’ll have anything else going on in my life next year, with both Matan and Moriah away.” The familiar ache welled up inside, and she rubbed her eyes.

Leah looked at her for a moment, and then sat down on a kiddie chair next to her. “Ilana, you’re mourning too much.”

“Mourning?” Ilana’s eyes widened at the word.

“Yes. Everything in your mind keeps coming back to Matan and Moriah going away. And it’s not like they’re going to Antarctica; they’ll still be home for Shabbat every few weeks.”

Shabbat … “This past Shabbat, it was only me and Danny at home,” Ilana said quietly. “Moriah’s still in the U.S., and Matan went to some friends. Do you know how depressing it was? We finished our meal in, like, five minutes.”

Leah shook her head. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Why should it be depressing? You always knew your kids would move out one day. What will you do when they get married?”

“Oh, that will be different,” she murmured. “Then there’ll be grandchildren.” She smiled at the thoughts: Lots of delicious little kids coming to visit, jumping on her couch and playing with her pots and pans. Suddenly, her smile faded. “Unless my kids have the same fertility issues I did. What if it’s genetic?” The thought was so horrifying, the marker in her hand trembled.

Leah put a gentle hand on top of her own. “Ilana,” she said. “You need to stop letting your infertility experience color the rest of your life. You have two amazing children, you’re smart and capable and have built such a great life for yourself.”

Ilana rolled her eyes. Sure, great life, she thought instinctively. Reading stories to—

Wait, no, that wasn’t her anymore. Now she was a PhD candidate, about to engage in research that would change Israeli society.

She shook her head, trying to clear it. Was that who she was? But she felt so much more comfortable in her little corner of the library. Or was that just anxiety?

Leah gave Ilana’s hand a squeeze. Softly, she said, “Did you ever consider the fact that you’re suffering from PTSD?”

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