Victory Gardens – Chapter 121

Novel

Manny writes to his parents explaining why he could not travel home. Papa and Zayit are chavrusos, and Esther and Mima Faiga have become friends. Manny asks Papa if he would take over Manny’s printing business until he returns to the United States.

*   *   *

“Well, that’s quite a letter,” said Mama, tears welling up in her eyes.

“Eh,” said Papa. “It’s too long. He was always wordy.”

“Now come on, Yosef,” said Mama. “It’s a beautiful letter and you know it. Take a few moments to shep nachas.”

“I can’t. There’s too much to do.”

Mama smiled as they drank their tea and ate some of Mama’s delicious cake. She was so thrilled to have her lifelong companion well again that she thought nothing of his mild criticism. In fact, she enjoyed it, understanding that Papa was well on his way back from wherever he’d been these past many months.

Mama was proud, too, of the way Mutty had stepped in. He’d returned from Eretz Yisrael still traumatized by the massacre in Chevron. The situation he walked into back in America was hardly a good one, either. But his newfound maturity and the good, hard work he put in had gone a long way toward restoring Mutty’s equanimity as well. If she’d been proud of Manny for sticking to his convictions and staying in Eretz Yisrael, she was equally proud of Mutty, who’d cared for his father with such devotion. She was blessed, and she knew it well.

So many of their friends and acquaintances had lost their children to the strange winds that were blowing through the world, different ones all the time, but the outcome was always the same. The children ended up abandoning Torah and mitzvos, intermarrying, with a loss of Yiddishkeit for generations to come. Her Emanuel, her Mutty, they were paragons of good boys, and she was so grateful to have them. She knew that Yosef occasionally gave them a hard time. He could be so crusty! But they’d always managed to balance each other out, and the boys continued to thrive.

She missed Manny, but oh! Thank you Hashem! A grandchild was on the way! She’d lost many a night’s sleep worrying over those two, and her Tehillim was soggy with her heartfelt pleas. When Yosef had begun suggesting that Emanuel and Esther divorce — Hashem Yerachem! And He had. The saying, “change your place and change your mazel,” had really borne out with her son and daughter-in-law.

Mama was grateful, too, to Manny for suggesting that Papa work at the printing plant. It would be the best thing for him. At the same time, of course, she wondered if her son would ever return home. The thought of possibly never seeing him again was too painful to bear. She wouldn’t allow herself to think of it.

“I think his idea is a good one,” said Mama, keeping her voice casual.

“Which idea?” said Papa, but she knew he knew what she was referring to. “How could I pick out one idea from all those words?”

Mama smiled over her teacup. “Why don’t you just spend a morning or two at the printing plant? It would be such a chessed to Emanuel. He won’t have to worry about mismanagement, and he can concentrate on his learning and his upcoming simchah.”

“Ach. A printing press is so noisy,” said Papa.

“Earplugs would solve that. I know Emanuel keeps a special pair for just that reason.”

“Ach,” said Papa again.

“There’s one more thing,” said Mama.

“What now?”

“There’s been a shidduch suggestion for Mutty!”

*   *   *

“Why did you go to all that trouble for those people?” asked Helle.

“I don’t know. There was something about him that made me want to protect him,” said her brother Jens.

“It was just strange. You are usually out to trap people, and here, you went out of your way to track down this fellow to warn him. I’m proud of you, Jens. Are you satisified with the outcome?” said Helle.

“I don’t know. But there is something about the Jews that I like very much,” Jens offered.

“How do you know about Jews?” his sister countered. “There aren’t so many in Copenhagen.”

“You forget, dear sister. I travel a lot. I meet people everywhere I go. And it’s usually the Jews who have stood out in my mind. They are exceptionally kind and helpful.”

Jens and his sister Helle had returned home to Denmark after their visit to Eretz Yisrael. Both of them had been deeply affected by their sojourn.

“How is it you know Hearst?” asked Helle.

“I work for him. I find people for him regularly. He asked me to find Rothstein.”

“Why?”

“He was angry about that photograph, and about having a religious Jew on board. It took the focus off what he was trying to do with that flight, which was promote himself. Zeppelin charters are not cheap, Helle,” said Jens.

“So he had you track down Rothstein for his henchmen?” said Helle, horrified.

“Tracking people is what I do Helle,” said Jens. “But I also did go and warn him. That’s also what I do.”

“You were always soft at heart,” said Helle. “Mor-Mor used to worry about you. She said you’d never find your way in the world with that tenderness.”

“Well, you see I’ve done all right for myself. Helping the Jew helped me. It was a refreshing change from the havoc and mayhem that I usually cause.”

“Thank you for bringing me along,” said Helle. “I think we both benefited from the journey.”

“Yes, I’d say so,” said Jens, looking out the window at the weak winter daylight. “I’d say so.”

To be continued . . .