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01 Jun 2009

It was Sunday again–a day that always seems to last longer than its allotted twenty four hours. It didn’t even have the distinction of being a very eventful Sunday. There were some kids at home and some in school. People and things had to be picked up and dropped off, bought and returned. The debris from Shabbos had to be cleared away to make room for the debris of the work week.

I was wrestling with the recalcitrant cushions of our aged living room sofa, and trying to bring some order into the new week, when my five year old daughter Rena asked me to arrange a playdate for her with her friend Miriam. Rena and Miriam often got together on Sundays. Both Miriam’s family and ours had an array of siblings that had to be ferried around and adults that had errands to accomplish. It suited us all to have the little girls busy with each other so that we could go about our business. We bypassed the usual etiquette demanding that we not call too frequently, and most Sundays found us on the phone asking, ‘Your house or mine?’

It was decided that this Sunday, Rena and Miriam would get together at our house, and Rena was excited. We’d recently bought some new toys for the family. Each of our four children had picked something to contribute to the family toy coffers. We had moon-shoes to bounce around in. We had a model remote-control Hummer to bang into furniture. We had a marble game, with some marbles already mysteriously missing. Most precious was Rena’s chosen purchase– a small, floppy, stuffed puppy that had replaced her security blanket. Miriam would be coming soon and Rena was pumped. She had what to bring to the table. This was going to be a good day.

When the doorbell rang, Rena raced for the door. I opened it to Miriam, smiling shyly with her father looming behind her. Her father and I exchanged some small talk (…How many carpools are you doing today?) and I was ready to usher Miriam in and close the door. Miriam looked up at her father and whispered something. He bent down low to hear her.


Whisper, whisper.

“You have a stomachache?”

A grave nod.

Kindly, he offered, “Do you want to go to the doctor?”

A solemn shake of the head.

I waited to lend support, deferring respectfully to Miriam’s father. But, I didn’t really want to wait quietly for this scene to play out. I wanted to reach over, pat Miriam on the back and commiserate with her. Miriam’s small, wispy haired head tilted at a pretty angle as she peered at her father, anxiously waiting for him to come to her rescue. “I know how you feel, kid! Many times, when I have to walk through a new door, I also get a stomachache. Sometimes, I’m like you. Even if it’s a door I’ve walked through many times before, I still feel weak at heart and worried sick. And life is full of so many doors.”

Now, of course, being of a religious bent, I know I have a Father up there, standing behind me and making sure that all goes well. Still, I wouldn’t mind turning around sometimes and actually seeing the belt buckle of someone larger than me, standing ready to liberate me from crisis. That fluffy puppy that my daughter’s holding doesn’t look too bad either.

“How about if you come in and play, and then if you don’t feel better in ten minutes, I’ll call your father and you’ll go home?” I offered this is a matter-of-fact tone; implying that there was no problem here. We knew all about stomachaches and escape hatches.

Given this safety net, Miriam’s fears vanished instantaneously. She flashed me a smile and both girls went flying off down the hall, fluffy puppy flapping behind them. Miriam’s father and I exchanged goodbyes and vague speculations about pick-up times, and then he left.

Walking back through the kitchen I picked up some stray papers, made a mental list of the most immediate phone calls that needed to be made, and resolved to delay all chores until I treated myself to a cup of coffee. I spooned out the decaf with the sound of clomping moon-shoes in the background. “Hey, kiddo,” I called silently into the playroom. “I applaud your wimpiness! I stand with you in your hesitation! Life is tough. Full of new beginnings and old obstacles. Hold on to those fluffy puppies for as long as you can!”

The clomping stopped and after a pause I heard the remote-control Hummer smack right into the bookcase.

Baila Rosenbaum is a freelance writer and editor living in Manhattan. Her work has been published by Targum Press, Judaica Press, in Mishpacha Magazine and Horizons.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.