As Leib shows the boys photos of when he was young, they all see the close resemblance between Leib and Mordechai. Shimmy teases Mordechai, which causes him to have a tantrum.
Leib and Shimmy both looked over at the sleeping Mordechai. “Does he do that a lot?” asked Leib.
Shimmy shook his head, but his eyes couldn’t mask the guilt that flashed through them. “Not so much. He’s usually just his regular self.”
“And when he isn’t?” asked Leib.
Shimmy shrugged, and Leib waited, knowing that Shimmy had more to say on the subject.
“I chepper him sometimes and he gets mad. I don’t mean to do it!” Shimmy’s confession came out in a rush. “Mommy doesn’t know I bother him. I never do it in front of her.”
“Then why did you do it in front of me?” asked Leib, his voice quiet.
Shimmy looked uncomfortable. “I don’t know,” he said, finally. Leib could tell he was confused. “I just know I can’t even help myself. It’s like he’s asking me to do it! When Mommy sees Mordechai get upset like that she doesn’t yell at him or at me. She just picks him up and sits with him in the big rocking chair until he calms down.”
“The big rocking chair?” said Leib, his heart pounding. “Mommy still has that?”
“What do you mean? She has always had it. We sit in it, all three of us, all the time. Why, Daddy? Is something wrong with it?” asked Shimmy.
“No, not at all. I was just surprised, that’s all.”
Leib wondered how it could be that even the smallest comment could trigger a massive memory flood, as he’d been having since the boys came to stay under his care. He remembered that rocking chair perfectly: Suri spent many nights in it as they anticipated Shimmy’s arrival, since she was unable to sleep more than an hour or two at a time without becoming uncomfortable. On his way home from work one day, his eye had fallen on the sign of a large used-furniture emporium. He pulled over, parked right in front of the store, and marched in. Lo and behold, the beautifully carved, oversized rocking chair sat on the display floor, tucked between an old leather two-seater couch and an overstuffed Laz-Y Boy. Leib sat down and began to rock. It felt exactly right, and before he could get up and find a salesman to ask the price, one was standing next to him, smiling.
“Fifty dollars for the young man, as long as he’s bringing it home to the Mrs.”
“He is,” answered Leib.
“Wrap it up, guys!” the salesman called as Leib peeled off the money from a small roll of bills he had in his pocket.
“She’s gonna love it,” the salesman assured him. Two large men appeared out of the back storage room and one of them gestured to Leib to get up. The larger one picked up the rocker and carried it out to the sidewalk, then headed straight for Leib’s car.
“How’d you know it was mine?’ asked Leib, bewildered.
The worker just grimaced at him, and loaded the chair onto the roof. The other fellow produced a couple of bungee cords, and between the two of them secured the chair so tightly Leib wondered if he would be able to unload it.
When they were done, one of them knocked on the roof with his knuckles, and the two men returned to the shop.
Leib got back in his car and drove home as if in a trance, wondering how Suri would react to his impulsive purchase. She was watching for him out the window, and when she saw him pull up with chair strapped to the top of his car, she came out of the house and carefully walked down the steps, her hands over her mouth and her eyes wide with glee.
“I love it! I love it!” she shouted, when she reached the car. She deftly undid the bungee ties, as Leib stood watching in shock and admiration, and he lugged it into their small apartment.
Suri rocked herself and both the babies in that chair. She was in it all the time. She’d been there, holding a sleeping Mordechai in her arms, when Leib informed her that he was leaving and that there was to be no discussion on the matter. The same eyes that had lit up with joy over the chair filled with tears that day, as he turned his back on her and walked away.
Who was that man? he asked himself now, as he looked over at Shimmy fondly. The more time he spent with the boys, the more it felt like he was watching two versions of himself simultaneously. The question was, which version was the real Leib Weinbach?
To be continued ….