April 20, 2024
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April 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chapter 2 Summary: Ilana feels her siblings aren’t able to understand her ambivalence over Matan’s entering the army. Yaffa is concerned about the negative influence Ari’s kids are having on her own as the cousins make a video for their grandparents.

“Ari? Oh, there you are. I was looking for you.” Yaffa stopped short as she took in the sight of Ari’s entire family emerging from the pool, and her eyes narrowed.

Ari ran a hand through his wet hair. Was she seriously going to make a fuss about this?

“It was just my family in there,” he said. “Perfectly kosher.”

“Did I say anything?” Yaffa’s fingers drummed on the phone in her hand. “Though we did agree to keep things separate. But never mind.”

Jake piped up. “Don’t look at me, I didn’t go in. I don’t do mixed swimming anymore. I was just sitting on the side watching.”

Yaffa’s lips twitched. “How very frum.”

Though there were few things Ari hated more than when his sister went into holier-than-thou mode, he couldn’t help laughing at Yaffa putting Jake in his place.

“Did you want something?” Debbie asked coolly.

Yaffa blinked. “Yes, I wanted to ask your opinion about when the photographer should come. Ilana and I were talking; on the one hand, it makes sense for her to do family portraits before the party starts, which means around 1. But outdoor pictures come out much better close to sunset, and since we are spending extra money on this artistic photographer, we might as well…”

“Artistic photographer?” Debbie looked sharply at Ari. “What’s this?”

Ari was just as mystified. “I don’t remember discussing this. I didn’t realize we were hiring a photographer at all.”

“Are you kidding, Ari?” Yaffa tried to catch Debbie’s eye, as if to say, “Men,” but Debbie, Ari noticed, didn’t play along. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion! Mommy and Daddy’s 50th anniversary, and all of their children and grandchildren together! You’re gonna just snap some photos on your phone?”

The way she said it made him feel dumb. Still…

“And how much is this ‘artistic’ photographer costing?” Debbie asked.

“Three thousand.” Yaffa’s face reddened slightly. “Yes, it’s high-end, but I figured, split four ways, it’s not so bad.” Ari raised his eyebrows, and Yaffa huffed, “Aren’t you the one who insisted that we need to split every expense—even though you know Mommy and Daddy would’ve paid for it all.”

Ari sighed. He still thought he was right about that, but he hadn’t anticipated how much it would rankle his sisters. Or that this would preclude him from having a say in any other monetary decision related to this vacation.

With a quick glance at Debbie, he said, “Fine. Artistic photographer. Looking forward. Can I go change out of my wet things now?” He started to walk towards the house.

“And the time?” Yaffa asked. “When should we tell her to come?”

“Whatever works best,” he called over his shoulder. “Sunset, high noon, or under a black starry sky—as long as we get the maximum artistry.”

“Considering she’s always complaining about money, she sure likes to spend it,” Debbie muttered, once they were back in their room. “Why do you always give in to her?”

Ari sat down on his bed. “What was I supposed to do? It seemed like a done deal.”

“Exactly my point! Why were we only finding out about this now? Only Yaffa and Ilana get to have any input? We’re only good for paying the bill?”

Ari took off his glasses and rubbed his eye. He wished Debbie wouldn’t make such a big deal about everything. “Maybe she thought she was doing me a favor by making all the arrangements? Honestly, I have no interest in deciding about photographers or menus or whatever—and my sisters know it.”

“And do they also know that I have no interest?”

Ari stared. “Do you?”

Debbie picked up her brush from the dresser and began to brush out her wet hair. “It’s not like I don’t like planning parties.”

Ari raised an eyebrow at her until, unwillingly, Debbie cracked a smile. “Fine, I’m lying.”

He smiled back. “No kidding. You and I both hate this stuff. That’s why we hired a party planner for the bar mitzvahs, remember?”

“Remember how she went crazy because she asked me to choose a color scheme and I told her to choose one herself. She was like, ‘How can you not care about the colors at your own son’s bar mitzvah?’” Debbie’s grin faded. “She cost a fortune, though. Like this artistic photographer of Yaffa’s.”

Ari sighed. “Is it really such a big—”

“They take advantage of you!” Debbie yanked the brush through her hair. “They know you never make a fuss, you’re always Mr. Peacemaker.”

“You say it like it’s a bad thing.”

“What do you wanna bet you get stuck paying the entire bill? Like that time we all went out to eat at Barnea for Mother’s Day.”

Ari put his glasses back on. “Come on, that was a one-time incident and you still keep harping on it.”

Debbie put the brush down and glared. “I know what I’m talking about. They see you, partner in an actuarial firm, and assume you’re rolling in money. They have no idea…”

She sat down on the bed, as Ari felt his stomach tighten with the anxiety he’d been carrying around of late.

“No idea,” she repeated.

***

Shani squinted at her grandmother’s face. “Too pink,” she declared, frowning. She turned to the array of colored powders and liquids covering the dining room table and dipped her brush into a bronze-colored cream. “Let’s try this one instead.”

“When do I get to see?” Gail Taubman asked.

“Only when we’re done, Grandma. I want it to be perfect first.”

Ilana, sitting off to the side with Yaffa, murmured, “She’s so talented. Where did Shani learn to do makeup?”

“She took a course.” Yaffa made a face, as she always did when describing Shani’s little business. “She thinks she wants to be a cosmetician when she grows up.”

“Well, what’s wrong with that? If she’s a hustler, she can make a nice living. And she seems like a hustler.”

“Yeah, she knows how to work hard. Just … I wish she would use it for something more meaningful.”

“You’ll see, Grandma, you’re gonna look beautiful!” Shani’s 8-year-old sister Yaeli squealed. “Shani makes everyone beautiful!”

“She already is beautiful,” Moriah told her. “Makeup is fake.”

“Watch it!” Shani cried, waving the brush at her cousin. “I’m gonna do you next!”

“Hah, I’d like to see you try.”

Swallowing a pang of jealousy, Yaffa said, “Good for Moriah. At least someone here has her values straight. How’d you manage that?”

Ilana waved her hand. “You know very well this is coming from the cultural differences in their societies. It’s nothing to do with values per se.”

“Right, I forgot you studied anthropology in college.” Yaffa snickered.

“Aren’t you lucky I did?”

“Absolutely. We’ve been able to make fun of you for years because of it.” She hunched forward. “But seriously, Ms. Anthropologist, you’re not going to tell me that a society’s cultural standards don’t reflect its values.”

Ilana shrugged. “Sure, they do. But that has nothing to do with either of our parenting.”

“I don’t know… not every girl in Lakewood wants to become a makeup artist.” Yaffa watched the way her other daughters were glued to Shani, even though they’d seen her do makeup demos dozens of times. Was this obsession with superficiality coming from her? “I mean, I know I like nice things,” she said aloud. “But I’m not superficial.”

“Of course you’re not. You’ve always been fired up by ideals, you were the big debater—remember how you flattened Scott Jacobs in that schoolwide debate when I was in 12th grade? What was it about again?”

“Whether the legal drinking age should be lowered. His arguments were completely idiotic.” Yaffa smiled at the memory. Then she shook her head. She could never in a million years picture Shani in a debate.

Watching her, Ilana said, “You know what you really are? An intellectual snob.” She looked at Shani, and added, “Don’t make your daughter suffer for it.”


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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