Manny and Zayit discover that both families were, bechasdei Hashem, anticipating a simchah. Esther’s blood pressure is rising, and Manny gives her the tincture Zayit had procured for his own wife.
“Kinderlach, come quickly!” Mima Faiga was staring out the window at the garden boxes Esther had left behind for her to care for.
“What? What’s there?”
“Come!” She lifted up the little ones while the older children stared out the window. She watched their eyes grow wide, as hers had.
“Peas! Cucumbers! And what is that large lump in the back?”
“It’s a watermelon!” cried Mima Faiga. “Kinderlach, can you see Hashem’s chessed right in front of your eyes? Food comes out of the dirt! It’s a miracle!”
The children turned their eyes from the food to their mother. She saw the food as the miracle, but they saw the change in their mother as the true miracle. She was aglow, a far cry from the grim expression she often wore before Esther reentered their lives.
“Why does Tanta Esther call it a victory garden?” asked one of the older girls.
“It’s a name from the war,” said Mima Faiga. Privately, though, she had another explanation: It was a victory over the despair that can set in when times just get too hard. She had almost stopped watering the garden out of frustration, and now here was the miracle right in front of her. She wondered how many other miracles in her life she’d missed out on because she wasn’t looking for them.
* * *
Esther’s crisis had been averted, but Schwester Selma sternly reminded her that she must continue to rest. Esther was a model patient. However, one morning she woke up in a near-panic.
“Manny!” she cried out.
Many ran in, afraid something was terribly wrong. “What is it?” he gasped.
“My garden! Have you been weeding and watering it?” she asked.
“What? That’s what you called me in for? I almost had a heart attack.”
“Chas vashalom! I’m sorry. I suddenly realized I had forgotten all about it.”
“Well, rest easy. I actually have been watering it a bit. I can’t say much for the weeding though.”
“Is anything coming up yet?” she asked.
“I haven’t been out in a few days, but I can take a look now.”
“Would you? I’ll wait here.”
“Glad to see you still have your sense of humor,” said Manny. “I’ll be right back.”
He stepped out into the little yard and looked over at the small garden patch in the corner. He was surprised to see, attached to the little yellow flowers, small green globes dangling beneath them. He stood up straight in surprise. Growing up in a city, he’d never actually seen any fruit on the vine, and here were tomatoes growing right outside his door. He was surprised at the pleasure he felt in the fact.
Looking harder, he could see the snow peas growing on their tall tendrils, where Esther had carefully placed sticks so the plants could grow straight and true. Looking at the garden, Manny understood that it was a reflection of his wife’s personality. The way she’d organized the garden seem to speak of her love of order, symmetry, and beauty. She seemed to have known how the garden would look in full bloom when the plants had only been at the seedling stage. He felt a new respect and admiration for her.
He walked back in and shared the good news of the garden. “It’s looking good out there,” he said cheerfully. “Looks like you’ve got some tomatoes and some peas.”
“Oh, the zucchini hasn’t come up yet?” she asked.
“Not as far as I can see,” he said. “You did a good job.”
“You really think so?” she asked.
“I do. I admit I thought it was a little silly at first, but I see there was something behind it. Your garden is both beautiful and practical.”
“Thank you. It’s not a real victory garden, like at home.”
“Because those were grown in boxes on the fire escape, and people really didn’t have any food.”
“Like Mima Faiga,” he said. “That’s why you planted the garden by us. So she wouldn’t feel like you were giving her charity.”
“Something like that,” said Esther, smiling faintly. She often felt that Manny didn’t take the time to understand her, and if moving to Eretz Yisrael had accomplished anything, it was that he now had the time and energy to speak to her and see her in a different light.
“Did your family have gardens in Poland?” he asked.
She looked at him, eyes wide. He almost never asked about her life in Poland.
“We did,” she said. “But we grew root vegetables: beets, potatoes, cabbage, onions, things like that. Nothing exotic.”
“I bet it kept you all well fed.”
“It did. We had a special cellar beneath the house where we kept everything cool. The vegetables lasted all spring and summer. We were fortunate. We would trade them for milk and eggs from people who had farms.”
“Sounds like it was a good system.”
“It was, as far as I remember it. I was a child though, without the concerns and worries of an adult.”
A silence settled between them like a feather floating to the floor.
“B’ezras Hashem, it’ll be all right,” said Manny, as he had reassured her the day before. “Don’t worry.”
“I hope so.” Her voice choked on a small sob. “Oh, how I hope so.”
To be continued . . .