Stony Point, New York….
“I’m …afraid to tell Mommy and Daddy,” the girl said with a shrug. Judy leaned closer; almost like a kitten bonking her head as she drew close to her girlfriend. If anyone would understand, it would be her own parents, but that didn’t solve the problem of how to tell Miriam’s parents about their relationship. And that was only the beginning.
“I can’t even face them.” Miriam bit her lip and looked away. What should have been a joyous occasion for so many reasons became almost a burden as the girl shook her head in defeat.
“I guess I should just be who they expect me to be.” That she had abandoned medicine to study psychology was only a small step sideways in her parent’s longing for another doctor in the family. But that was just the beginning of what would likely be a slew of disappointments.
“You have to be who you are, Mir….” Judy squeezed Miriam’s hands.
“You can’t be who or what you aren’t, honey. I know this is hard but I also know someone who can help.”
“She better than anyone would know exactly what you’re going through.”
“But your parents accepted her….almost immediately, right?”
“But the fear of not knowing was the same. If it hadn’t been for Zaydeh Jacob, I don’t know how things would have worked out. It’s not easy, but it has to be done, right?” Judy raised one eyebrow; not in question, but in the almost wry ‘I know this sounds impossible, but’ way of encouraging her girlfriend. Miriam laughed softly and smiled, blinking back some tears, even as she marveled at the irony of what Judy had just recalled.
“It’ll work out. Zaydeh had a saying….’It’s time, kinderlekh!’ I think it’s time, and with Deborah’s help, I think we can get through this.” Judy squeezed her hands once again and she pulled the girl close for a warm goodnight kiss.
The office of Deborah Blumenfeld, PsyD….a few days later…
“I want you to read this, okay, Miriam?” Deborah sat across from her sister and Miriam; her posture that of a loving family member rather than a therapist. Miriam needed something much more personal than an example of facing her fears; she needed to meet someone who faced the same fears. Miriam took the paper from Deborah’s hands. It was yellowed with age and had been taped over worn out folds. Parts of the paper were darker; tear stains that spanned decades and lifetimes. She read down the page.
“Somehow Uncle Herschel was able to sneak me out…it was almost a whirlwind running through attics and then on rooftops and somehow out of the city. But as I ran away I was shot. The Walesa family…they found me and nursed me to health.
Miriam looked up at Deborah and then to Judy. The two nodded. Miriam had already heard the story of Esther; Elte Bobe (great grandmother) and how life had changed dramatically in one instant. She shrugged her shoulders. Reading down she gasped.
Don’t be scared, little one. I am the same Aaron Blumenfeld who knew you then, no matter who or what you may be now. I haven’t stopped thinking about you since we parted those many years ago.” He told me as he held my hand. I wasn’t the same child he knew, but it didn’t matter.
A good man who knew and yet accepted Esther; a woman just like Deborah and maybe exactly like Miriam. In a moment her tears mingled with the stains on the old piece of paper. Even though it was fragile, it still was almost like it was destined to cradle the heartbreaks and dreams that spoke through her tears.
“Daddy is a good man.” She said with a gasp; if anyone would understand it would be her father. A man of character and a man of faith, but a loving caring father with a heart for his youngest child? And her mother was a woman who loved all of her children. She shuddered, though, as old doubts and new feelings of shame and confusion pulled at her like the undertow of a treacherous wave. Judy grabbed her hand once again; almost a rote gesture, it would seem, but a necessary show of belief and faith that Miriam needed, not just to hear, but to feel.
“I can come along if you like?” Deborah said with a gentle smile.
“I think if I need you, I can call you, but I think maybe it would be better for them if the meeting was smaller?” She looked down at herself as tears began to flow. It wasn’t anything they couldn’t handle, and the knowledge of that strength brought a new-found courage and much needed relief. Judy hugged her and kissed her cheek; the salt of Miriam’s tears refreshed them both as she kissed Miriam.
Peekskill, New York, Wednesday, November 27…
“Daddy? I have a friend I want you to meet, okay?” Miriam wanted to set the cell phone down; the thought of being pushed away intruded into what was otherwise a harmless question. The answers she needed would come face to face, and perhaps even before a word was spoken.
“Tonight? It’s the first night…. Oh Daniel and Faye are going to be there…of course. You want me to bring my friend?” The thought of introducing Judy to the family….her brother and sister-in-law as well?
“Okay….Daddy?” She paused; the crying would come later, but the tears had already begun to bolster her courage in a way.
“I love you.”
Peekskill , that evening…
“Hello? May I help you?” Jonathan Rosenblum stood at the doorway, puzzled. Judy smiled and offered her hand.
“Hello? Mr. Rosenblum? I’m Judith…Judy Bielecki.”
“Ah….I was expecting you.”
“Jonathan? Has the prodigal arrived?” His wife Rina called from the kitchen.
“I don’t know, my dear…. There’s a Miss…Bie….”
“Bielecki…Judy Bielecki…. You were expecting me?”
“Ah…the friend who came for dinner,” he laughed softly. His eyes almost twinkled. A father’s eyes. A moment later Lina stood next to her husband, rubbing his arm gently and smiling at Judy.
“Well….And where is my youngest child?” She looked at Judy and Judy nodded before looking over her shoulder. The young lady stepped out from the side of the doorway. She wore a long knit charcoal sweater coat. Her head was covered in a dark green mitpachat that draped down over her neck and shoulders. A pretty girl with a very sad, if hopeful look on her face.
“Jacob?” Jonathan peered at his youngest child. He went to step closer, but stopped.
“I’m sorry, Daddy. I’m so sorry.” Miriam began to cry. Judy stepped back and sideways, grasping Miriam’s right hand. Rina looked at her and back at her husband. He blinked back a few tears and laughed softly.
“So you didn’t bring anything for dinner. No matter; there’s plenty.” Miriam’s eyes widened in amazement and then narrowed in question. Rina smiled before stepping closer. She pulled Miriam into a big hug, whispering in her ear.
“You think all this time you were fooling your mother, mein tokhter?” Rina kissed Miriam on the cheek and looked over at Judy.
“And this is your friend? More than a friend, I’d say, and look at that ring!” Rina’s comment drew attention to Judy’s hand, which was graced with a pretty engagement ring. Judy held it out for Rina’s inspection; a smile and a nod indicating approval. Judy’s eyes glanced at Miriam’s hand, which also was graced with a ring; similar but in gold whereas Judy’s ring was silver.
“Yes…more than a friend.” Jonathan said, pulling his youngest child in for a long-needed hug for them both.
“I love you more than my own life, mein tockter,” he said before he began to weep on Miriam’s shoulder; those two words which gave their relationship a new meaning with depth and courage and hope that Miriam had never yet enjoyed.
“And you!” He glared at Judy before breaking into a broad if tearful smile.
“Welcome to the family.”
A week where we celebrate a day of thanksgiving and also begin the observance of the festival of lights, I recall the following, written by Emma Lazaurus,
Ablaze on evening's forehead o'er the earth,
And add each night a lustre till afar
An eightfold splendor shine above thy hearth.
But even more so, for the gratefulness of life lived as we are and who we have always been, like Miriam perhaps might recall, I also remember the poet’s more famous work…
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Chag Chanukah sameach!
The Bielecki Family Stories also include...
A Miracle of Chanukah
and the sequel,
A Rainy Day in September
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