Victory Gardens – Chapter 111


Mutty discloses to Mima Faiga why he’s come to the apartment, and she agrees to let him read Esther’s letters; however, he may not take them home.

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Dear Mima Faiga,

Today I went with Manny to the shuk to buy some fruits and vegetables. You have never seen such a tumult in your life…


Dear Mima Faiga,

How are you and the children? Manny and I are trying to get settled in. My new home has no built-in closets…


Dear Mima Faiga,

Do you know that it is possible to fry a kugel on top of a primus? Most of the time I feel like I’m back in Poland…


Mutty hadn’t realized how much women liked to share the details of their domestic lives. He plowed through the pile of letters but found himself becoming frustrated and  bored. He wished he could just come right out and ask Mima Faiga if there was a simchah on the horizon, but he knew he could not. The possibility that only he remembered Hearst’s comment, or that Papa remembered and wasn’t saying, or that Papa remembered and had already told Mama and nobody was talking about it — if it was even true — left him at a loss as to how to proceed. It could be the reason Manny did not return directly home after finding out — or suspecting — that he was being followed.

Mutty doggedly read every word of every letter, and aside from learning the best way to hold a live chicken when bringing it home from the market, there wasn’t much helpful information in any of them.

He stood up and stretched after putting the letters back in a neat pile.

“Any luck?” asked Mima Faiga.

“Well, these are certainly very nice letters.”

“Not too interesting to you?” she asked.

“Not really,” he replied.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” she persisted.

“No,” he said. “I don’t think I did. But you’re lucky to have such a warm kesher.”

“It wasn’t always like that, you know,” said Mima Faiga.

“What do you mean?”

“We didn’t hear from Esther for years after her marriage to your brother.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t say I know. She just became a Rothstein.”

“Really? I didn’t know that. But I’m sorry to hear you weren’t in touch.”

“The past is the past. I’m so grateful to Esther right now that I long ago forgot the pain of that separation. Of course, I forgave her as well. And then, Hashem sent her to us when we needed her, and she really came through for us.”

Mutty nodded. “I’m glad to hear that, Mrs. Taubenfeld. Say, is there anything I can do for you while I’m here?” asked Mutty.

“Anything? There are a thousand things! Shall I go in alphabetical order?”

Mutty laughed but then grew concerned. “I hope you are taking proper care of the apartment! I’m sure my brother and his wife are counting on you to keep things in order.”

“Oh, don’t worry. The walls and the roof beams are still sound. There are just the little things that happen in any home, but there are so many of them. Shall we start with the leaky faucet and work our way backwards?”

“I don’t have my tools,” said Mutty.

“Manny’s toolbox is next to the laundry closet, but it doesn’t look like he uses it much.”

Mutty smiled. “He also calls me to make repairs. My father taught both of us but I think the skills all came to me.”

“Oh, well, everyone has his special talent. In many ways, your brother is a fine man. Esther did well for herself. Your father wasn’t so happy at the beginning, but we convinced him.”

“Really?” said Mutty. “I didn’t know that.”

“You were just a boy then, not even bar mitzvah.”

“I’m 20 now!” retorted Mutty.

The moment he said that, Mima Faiga’s mind flashed on her sixteen-and-a-half-year-old daughter Breindy.

Who would agree to marry her without a dowry?

Perhaps Mutty Rothstein?

“You know what?” she said. “While you do the repairs, I’m making a big lukshen kugel with cheese in it, for supper.” She wasn’t really, not until that moment, but she’d start now.

“There will be plenty. Join us.”

From her experience in her parents’ home, bachurim were always hungry. A big, hot meal would be hard to turn down, even if he knew he would be eating at his mother’s house later. Mima Faiga resolved to make it not just taste good but to smell good also, to make sure he would stay. She’d use lots of cinnamon and vanilla.

Her heart was pounding with excitement. She had envisioned herself growing old with her children still at home, and suddenly the world seemed full of possibilities again. A person really does need some hope in their life, she thought to herself as she hummed along at her work. I feel so much lighter and energetic. Now, all I need is a shadchan. 

To be continued . . .