By Malkie Hirsch
I’m the oldest of six, and the first four of us were born within six years. A childhood memory of mine is walking past a picture we had on the piano in our Brooklyn living room and thinking to myself, “This isn’t complete.”
Now, I don’t claim to have psychic powers but I just had a feeling that even though Dovi (the youngest at the time) was six and I was nearing 12, there were more siblings to come who were simply taking a bit more time to make their appearance than anticipated.
We traveled to Israel for my grandfather’s yahrzeit and I recall that I didn’t see my mother much on that trip. She didn’t want to worry anyone, but she wasn’t feeling herself. Upon visiting a doctor in her fourth month of pregnancy, she was advised that everything was good — but not to climb Masada.
She took it easy for the rest of the trip.
When we got home, my parents held the first official Gordon family meeting. It started well enough, with pizza and ice cream (at least those were my favorite parts), and then came the family talk.
“Can anyone guess why we’ve called this meeting tonight?” asked my father as we kids sat across their beds.
“Ema’s pregnant!” piped Dini, all of eight years old but wise beyond her years. I’m glad I kept my mouth shut with my theories as to what we were doing there. Certainly nothing as fun and exciting as a new baby, seven years after Dovi was born.
Little did we know how out of practice and out of space we truly were—three boys packed into one tiny bedroom, and Dini and me in the other.
A couple of years after Nissy was born, we made the move to Lawrence. Shortly after that, to my utmost mortification but also great joy, my mother gave birth to Nachi during my 10th grade year in TAG.
Over winter break, to add insult to injury.
There were years of super-uncool carpools to Darchei (my only driving privilege), trips to Israel and Florida where the flight crew wanted to escort my baby brother off the plane because of the screaming caused by his ears bothering him, projectile vomiting in car rides (ewww), and overflowing diapers while my parents were in Jersey shopping and left me home to babysit. But we got through it. Though the boys are more like older brothers to my kids, they’re such an important part of their upbringing, now more than ever.
I have four brothers and a brother-in-law, Eliezer Franklin, and every night of the week, a brother comes to hang out with my sons after school. They watch the game, do homework with them if needed, or just clown around. They take Dovid to Ma’ariv, and watch him in awe as Dovid does what he has to do without question.
Because of my state of shock in the beginning, I don’t know if I noticed the Gordon brother rotation, but eventually I would get questions from the kids, asking who would be there on that given night. To me, that meant that they needed it. They looked forward to their uncles coming to hang out, getting them ready for bed, and being there for them in any capacity.
My brothers attend my boys’ hockey games, screaming like maniacs from the stands when my boys get a goal — and even when they don’t. It’s not uncommon for Dovid to hang out at Dovi’s or Nison’s apartment to watch the game (or an afternoon of Sunday games) at this point. Or for my brother-in-law Eliezer to volunteer to take off a day of work on the farm to attend a fishing trip that fathers were welcome to join.
Two weeks ago, I received a call from the principal at my sons’ school, inviting me to the haschalat Gemara breakfast for the fifth-grade class. It was meant to be a grandfather–father–son event, but being that we are a bit short on those family members, Rabbi Davidowitz extended the invite to me or whoever else would want to attend with Nison.
I sent the invite to the family WhatsApp chat, knowing that my father and brother-in-law were going to be in attendance, and I just hoped Nissy would be happy with the show of support.
On the morning of the breakfast, I started receiving pictures of my brothers and my son at the Gemara breakfast, with a smile on my son’s face that told me through the picture how happy he was and how much it meant to him that his uncles showed up for the event.
I know I’d do anything to change what had to happen to my family. But having family rally around you and your kids, telling you with their actions on a daily basis that they won’t let you fall, is a pretty amazing consolation.
My brothers and my sister Dini’s husband, Eliezer, are more than uncles to my sons. They each exhibit different character traits that my boys will strive to emulate as they grow up. Yochanan’s honesty and wholesome nature, Dovi’s athleticism and generosity, Nison’s sensitive and amazing personality, Nachi’s entrepreneurship and ability to connect to many, and Eliezer’s ability to make dreams into reality with hard work and dedication to his trade.
Those traits might be divided among them, but together, my brothers and brother-in-law make up quite a team of men — and I feel completely at ease that they have a hand in raising my sons.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away in March at the age of 40. Over the past few months, she has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are now privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.