By Malkie Hirsch
Xiomara (sha-ma-ra) proper noun
- Smart, capable, and savvy babysitter/housekeeper who lights a fire under me on a daily basis. Helps me keep our house a home, takes inventory obsessively, and makes sure I’m happy, healthy, and able to run things smoothly with her help.
- Loves my kids like they are her own. (And her own kids also love mine like we’re family.) Has gone above and beyond to make me realize that she’ll be there for us always.
I met Xiomara around eight years ago. She came to my house in a nicer car than my messy Honda Odyssey. She smelled nice, her hair was perfectly done, and I realized that I needed her in my life. At that time, I had three kids. Yosef was a baby and had taken to pronouncing her name as “Ra-ra” and it sort of stuck.
Some medical issues came up, and Xiomara had to leave us too soon. As the kids grew, we kept in touch. I’d hear from her occasionally as she started a new job, her kids got bigger, and she’d send pictures. Finally, last year, as my former babysitter was no longer with us, Xiomara reached out to me and she came to work here.
It was like having an old friend back. An old friend who organizes your house and keeps your kids neat and clean, cares for the baby, and even accompanies you on trips.
When we went to Puerto Rico for winter break last January, Xiomara ran into the kitchen at an early hour with her bag and sunglasses on. I was up, getting breakfast ready for the kids, and she ran out, telling me she’d be back in a few minutes. I wondered where on earth she had gone. She came back a half-hour later, armed with birthday balloons, cards for all of us to sign, and presents for Moshe’s birthday.
After all, it was a big one.
The big 4-0.
And I always felt bad that his birthday had to be celebrated smack in the middle of winter break because he usually spent it in a wading pool with a kid or three, making their memories. Never focusing on himself. Always caring for his loved ones.
Anyway, she set up a birthday corner, lovingly placing her purchases for when he’d walk into the kitchen.
Who was this woman, who thought about Moshe’s special day when she woke up that morning during a week where she was working hard helping us with the kids, away from her family?
She’s Xiomara. And there’s no one else like her.
Fast-forward a couple of months to that fateful day in late March when my life changed forever.
When I ran into the house after being notified by Hatzalah that Moshe had collapsed at work, I quickly dropped off my keys for her and explained that I was running to Brooklyn with Moshe’s mother and I’d call her as soon as I heard anything.
I was convinced the entire time that they’d tell me that they’d stabilized him.
That he was being transferred to a hospital.
That I’d give her details once I was privy to them.
So when I called her and nothing came out of my mouth, but she saw that it was me calling, she started to scream. Because the impossible had happened. The indestructible, strong, selfless, kind, generous husband, father, and employer had died in an instant.
I found my voice and asked her if she needed someone to come stay with Rosie. But she pulled herself together and told me that she’d be O.K.
She was there during shivah, when there was too much food, too many people, and a broken family trying to find meaning behind such an enormous tragedy.
She was there when I’d cry every time I opened my closet and saw his ties, his sweaters, and random items lying around our room. She quietly collected it all and placed it in another room, telling me that it’s still here but not in the room, that it might be easier for me if it’s put away for now.
She was there to tell us about her father getting killed in an accident when she was a little girl and how her mother was left alone to raise six children on her own. About how she grew up happy and healthy and was able to come to America, get married, and have a family and remain close with her siblings and her mother who she says is the most amazing woman she knows. Her hero.
Her sentiments echo my life. The new life of mine where I’m the one at the wheel. I’m the one making the decisions and advocating for my kids. When I stand in the kitchen sometimes and get stuck on some memory and start to cry, she walks over to me and grabs my shoulders and tells me how strong I am and how I have to take care of myself to be there for my kids. She asks my friends to take me out and offers to stay late if it means I can have a good time and be temporarily distracted. She has the phone numbers of Rosie’s therapists so that if one is running late, she can run to Central Avenue in her beautiful clean car and buy Rosie new shoes for Shabbos. She’s always thinking of the kids in different ways. We’re always on her mind, even when she’s off on the weekend or after she leaves for the day. Which is how I know that this is more than just a job for her. And we’re more than just the family she works for.
So why had I met Xiomara eight years ago, had her work here for a year, and then reconnected with her last year?
There are no coincidences in life. We don’t believe they exist. It’s all G-d’s plan and there was a reason that happened.
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.