Victory Gardens – Chapter 112

Novel

Mutty reads through Esther’s letters to Mima Faiga but finds no hint of an impending simchah.

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Following the scare of Esther’s rising blood pressure, Schwester Selma insisted that Esther spend a few days in the hospital for observation. Manny hired a wagon to take them to there.

At first Esther was overcome by fear and anxiety — two things that are perilous for a person with high blood pressure! Schwester Selma would cluck and moan every time she came to take a reading.

“Esther, you must relax! You must overcome your fears and emotions and place your trust in Hashem.”

The words stung, but Esther knew them to be true. “I know, but I can’t relax. I need to be at home, in familiar surroundings,” she responded.

“And you will be, as soon as we have you right again. If you’re not patient we will be forced to keep you here longer, and I’m sure you wouldn’t want that. Here, I’m going to give you something to help you keep calm.”

“No, I don’t want anything. I’ll calm down by myself. I just need something to do with my hands.”

“Do you knit or crochet?” asked Schwester.

“I can crochet a little, but everything comes out lopsided.”

“How about mending? We can certainly use a seamstress around here.”

“Mending? I am the best mender I know of. My mother used to sit me down and make me do it. I always wanted to jump up and run around and go outside to feed the goats. She was afraid I would never be able to run my own home, so she taught me to sit and mend for an hour every day. She always made it fun, with a treat of hot milk with a cube of sugar.”

“Ah, so you sew very well?” she asked.

“Yes, I suppose I do. My mother trained me well.”

“You must miss your family,” said the Schwester, her eyes filling with sympathy.

“I do, but I’ve been away so long, it’s like a dull ache rather than a sharp one. I moved to America when I was twelve. I came along with my aunt and her family to help, and I never went back. I don’t mind too much. I had a good life there. And now I’m here in Eretz Yisrael, which is even better in some ways.”

“That is certainly true. I have also been grateful for being here. Tell me, Esther, have you ever tried your hand at doll making? We have so many children here. It would be wonderful if they had a nice plaything.”

“I’ve never tried it,” said Esther.

“Well, then, you’re in for a treat that will be just as good as milk and sugar. Doll making is just as lovely for the one making it as the one receiving it.  ”

The next day, Schwester Selma returned, armed with all the “ingredients” required for doll making, along with a few different samples. Esther was immediately enchanted.

The Schwester sat next to Esther, after work was finished for the day. The two sat and stitched and stuffed and sewed, and in the end, Esther produced a respectable looking doll. As the Schwester had predicted, she was thoroughly besotted by her handiwork.

“So there you go,” said Schwester Selma. You have enough material to make a few dolls. I’m sure we’ll be able to round up some other scraps for you to work with. This will keep your hands and your mind busy, and you will see, the time will fly by.”

The Schwester was correct. Esther finished the dolls within a few days, and they were lovely. She’d sewed charming accessories for the dolls, too.

Instead of Schwester Selma simply taking the dolls and distributing them, she brought each child over to Esther, introduced the two and presented the doll. Thus, Esther found herself with a new circle of friends, all of them under three feet tall. Each one received a doll and a smile, and sometimes a hug. Soon Esther began making up stories and plays involving the dolls, and would find herself surrounded by three or four little people at all times. When Manny came to visit, Esther begged him to bring sweets and more materials. She showed him what she needed: small lengths of brightly colored and patterned material, different color threads, needles, scissors, buttons and zippers, and soft stuffing for the inside. “Imagine you were a child once again,” she told him. It got to where she wasn’t as anxious to go back home.

But finally the day came when her blood pressure was deemed stable.

Manny hired a wagon to bring her home. Her goodbyes to her new friends were tearful, but she was determined to spend much more time at home continuing to make dolls.

And the days went by like precious pearls on a string. Manny dropped the new dolls off once a week, and after awhile word began to spread about the “Doll Maker of Shaare Zedek.”

To be continued . . .