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

Chapter 8 Summary: Ari is disconcerted to learn that Jake has set up a chavruta with Yaffa’s husband, Shmuel. After hearing her kids’ excitement about their newly renovated kitchen, Yaffa worries that she’s raising shallow kids.

Ari rubbed his temple as he read the financial statement once again. The numbers were getting worse and worse. Debbie was right; he should have done research before handing such a large sum of money over to a new investment company. But he and Sam had been friends since their YU days, and Sam had assured him that this commercial real estate project was a sure-thing investment. That he, personally, was putting $300,000 into it.

The way Ari had seen it, here was an easy way to help a friend launch his business and make some good money at the same time. He’d committed his own $300K on the spot.

Debbie had been furious when she’d heard. “A new company? With no history? How do you know he knows what he’s doing?”

Ari hadn’t liked that she’d thrown cold water on his excitement, “C’mon, this is Sam Farber we’re talking about. You and Cindy are together on the shul sisterhood. Besides, Sam’s not inexperienced; he’s been doing investments on the side for years.”

Debbie had muttered some more about throwing their money in the garbage, but Ari had ignored her. She was always suspicious of others.

Unfortunately, three years later, Debbie’s suspicions proved accurate. It turned out that the approval for land development hadn’t been as guaranteed as Sam had believed. By the time they’d finally gotten the permits, after pouring lots of additional money into legal fees, COVID had popularized remote working, people were beginning to move to states with better tax regulations, and another office building had in the meantime been built nearby. Now, Ari’s $300K was sitting in a half-empty building, with the office space being rented out for practically nothing. Sam avoided him in shul and Debbie and Cindy were barely on speaking terms.

The front door opened, and Ari hastily stuffed the statement into his pants pocket just as Debbie walked into the kitchen, carrying several bags of groceries. She stopped as she saw Ari.

“What are you doing home?” she asked.

Ari quickly stood up. “I left work early to drive my mother to the rehab center.”

Why did Debbie’s stare make him feel so guilty? What was he supposed to do when visiting hours were smack in the middle of the work day?

“Again?” she asked. “Can you really afford to take off so much time from work?”

She and Ari both knew the answer to that; the financial statement was burning a hole in his pocket. With their retirement savings down the drain he needed to be working more hours now to build up a new nest egg.

Ari hesitated. “Would you be willing to drive her?”

Debbie pursed her lips. “I already spent my entire Monday this week bringing her to the center. Barbara was not very happy. I mean, I know she’s paying me peanuts but it still is a job, and she counts on having a receptionist around to greet her clients.”

“Of course.” He decided to test the waters once again. “What about Jake…”

Debbie shook her head firmly. “Jake is not an experienced enough driver to make the 45-minute trip. You agreed with me on that.”

Ari nodded; he had. But what were they supposed to do? It was nice that Moriah was helping his mother manage at home, but honestly, until his father came home, not much help was needed. It was these daily visits that were pushing him to his limit.

Debbie began putting away the groceries. In a too-casual voice, she said, “What about Yaffa? She works in a school; she’s on summer vacation right now. Why can’t she do more?”

“Yaffa came in on Sunday to drive her.”

Debbie made a face. “Big deal. You’ve been going practically every day.”

“It’s over an hour drive just to get here from Lakewood, and then she needs to drive another 45 minutes to the rehab center.”

Debbie shrugged as she emptied a bag of cucumbers into the vegetable drawer in the fridge. “And it’s not inconvenient for us to keep missing work?”

Ari was silent; he tapped his pants pocket. She was right, he couldn’t keep taking off. “Fine, I’ll talk to her,” he muttered.

He didn’t know which was bothering him more—the prospect of an uncomfortable conversation with Yaffa… or the fact that he was never allowed to feel resentment himself because he was forever needing to defend his sister to Debbie.

***

Ilana smiled at the picture Moriah had just sent, of her and her grandmother grinning next to a Scrabble board. I beat Grandma!!!!! was written underneath.

“Take a look,” Ilana said to Leah, her fellow volunteer at the local library. The two of them had just run a story time group for 4-year-olds and were now cleaning up.

“Sweet,” Leah said. “It’s so nice that Moriah’s spending her vacation with her grandmother.”

“Yeah… but I miss her.” She felt stupid saying it; Moriah was away for all of two weeks, and she was helping Ilana’s mother, of all things. But, of course, she wasn’t really talking about this little trip.

Leah shot her a sympathetic look. “When does she start her sherut?”

“After the chagim.” Ilana swallowed. By the time Moriah came back, it would already be Elul. That meant just a few short weeks before her daughter was off.

“Remind me again what she’ll be doing?”

“Working in a school for special needs. In Beer Sheva.” Ilana made a face. Why she couldn’t have found a nice school right here in Beit Shemesh, Ilana didn’t know.

“The girls like to spread their wings,” Leah said knowingly. “It’s fun for them to get to see other cities. And good for them to leave home,” she added.

Ilana nodded. Most of Leah’s six kids had already gone through the system; three were already married, and Leah was a grandmother many times over. Ilana valued her experience but sometimes wondered if the older woman truly understood where she was coming from. Leah didn’t have “Onlies”—an only girl, an only boy, an only pregnancy, only birth, only twins moving up together from toddlerhood to gan to elementary school and high school.

Leah glanced at the photo of Moriah again. “She’s a great girl. You must be so proud.”

“I am.” Proud wasn’t the word. Moriah and Matan… they were her life.

For years Danny had warned her that she needed to do something more. That she couldn’t just identify herself as Moriah’s and Matan’s mother.

Leah was returning a stack of books to the shelves. Ilana picked up her own pile.

Suddenly, she said, “Did I ever tell you that I studied towards a Ph.D.?”

Leah’s eyes widened. “Seriously? In what? Should I be calling you Dr. Ilana?”

“Hah, hah. Anthropology. It was a long time ago. I dropped out of the program when my kids were born.”

That’s when she’d officially dropped out, but she’d really left several years earlier—those years when all of her physical and emotional energy had been spent on fertility treatments.

Ilana thought back on those earlier years, before she’d met Danny. As a new olah, she’d been on fire about living in Israel and had been sure that she would not just be another Anglo immigrant but would make a real difference in society. Getting a Ph.D. had been the first step in her plan to dedicate her life to researching Israeli society and developing genius ideas to help the disparate communities live harmoniously. Now, remembering her idealistically naive younger self, she couldn’t help but smile—yet deep down, she felt more like crying.

“You’re a good mother, and it shows in your kids.” Leah paused. “Now that they’re leaving home, have you thought about going back to school to finish up your degree?”

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.

By Ariella Aaron

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