By Esther Rapaport
Chaiky answered the ringing phone. “Hello?”
“Is this the Struk family?” a girlish voice asked.
“Yes, it is.”
“You’re Dovi’s mother, right?”
“Right.” Chaiky raised an eyebrow and took a bobby pin off the shelf to pin back a few errant hairs that had evaded Naomi’s braid. “Who is this, please?”
“I’m Rachel — do you remember me from the hospital?”
Chaiky didn’t need even another second. “Sure,” she said. “How are you, Rachel?”
“I’m fine, baruch Hashem. Do you know that you left your earrings here?”
“What? Oh, right, you’re right. I took them off that night in the hospital and forgot about them. How did you know they were mine?”
“I looked at you so much that night when I thought you were my mother, so of course I noticed your earrings. I was actually trying to think if someone had bought them for you as a gift when I was born, but then I decided that people probably don’t buy gifts for new mothers who don’t want their babies, right? In the end, it turned out that you’re not my mother, after all, but it doesn’t matter — I still remember your earrings well. Do you want to give me some signs to identify them, just to be sure?”
Oops, that was a problem. Until that moment, Chaiky had made sure not to mention the word “earrings” in front of her mother, who had bought them for her when Naomi was born. She would not be pleased to hear that her daughter had left them in a drawer in the hospital. “Can we speak a bit later, Rachel?” Chaiky asked carefully as she patted Naomi’s cheek fondly. “I have to get ready now to leave the house.”
“Too bad. I wanted to bring them to you now. The truth is, I don’t even know which bus goes from Haifa to Yokne’am, but maybe you can tell me. So I shouldn’t come now? Do you prefer I come in the evening? Or maybe a different day is better?”
“Don’t trouble yourself. I’ll ask someone to come and get them from you.”
“No, don’t send anyone. I’ll come. And it’s not a bad thing for me to have a little trip. Elsie will be happy not to have me underfoot all the time. When I told her that I’d let you know that we found your earrings, she said I should be careful so you shouldn’t think I’m clinging to you too much, and I wondered if she wasn’t hinting that maybe I’m clinging to her too much. Fine, it doesn’t matter now. So when is a good time for me to come to you?”
If she wanted to so badly… “Tomorrow afternoon, alright? Call me at lunchtime, and I’ll tell you what time is good for me and which bus line will bring you to the stop closest to my house.”
“Great, thanks. I hope you don’t think I’m too much of a nudnik, but the fact that you have the same last name as me makes me feel connected to you, you know what I mean?”
Chaiky took a deep breath and looked at the clock. “Sure I understand, Rachel. Don’t worry about it.”
“You don’t think I’m too much of a nudnik?”
“I think you’re a very nice girl. Let’s finish this conversation now, Rachel, alright? Tizki l’mitzvos. And call me tomorrow.”
“No problem at all,” the girl replied cheerily.
Shlomo’s mother was already at the door. Chaiky left the two mechuteinistes to shake hands warmly, and their granddaughter to frolic around them, while she excused herself and hurried to finish getting ready.
“A siyum for a class in Bais Yaakov!” she heard her mother-in-law exclaim. “It’s so exciting for me! I never had this experience as a mother, because I only had sons…”
Chaiky opened her closet to get her shoes. Yes, the Struk family had Menachem, the oldest; Shlomo, born a year and a half later; and Baruch, who was eighteen. And the twins—eight years younger than Baruch.
Of course there was no connection. The Struks only had sons, no daughters. So why was it that as she cleaned her shoe with a baby wipe, she saw Rachel in front of her eyes? And when she washed her hands, took her wallet, and went out to greet her mother-in-law more properly, she just kept seeing Rachel in her mind’s eye?
Esther Rapaport is a prolific author whose novels include Diamond in the Rough, Divided Attention, Behind the Scenes, Without a Trace, Dance of the Puppet, Blood Brothers, and The Kenya Conspiracy. She resides in Israel.