Victory Gardens – Chapter 122


Papa and Mama discuss Emanuel’s letter, and Papa agrees to make a visit to the printing plant. Mama tells Papa that a shidduch has been suggested for Mutty. Back in Denmark, Jens and his sister discuss why he warned Manny of the impending danger.

*   *   *

The arrival of the Zayits was the best thing to happen to Mima Faiga in a long time. Having someone else to focus on besides worrying about her husband was a welcome change, and she threw herself into the task wholeheartedly.

Her letters from her husband Zalman, while cheerful, were not very encouraging. He wasn’t getting worse, but he wasn’t getting better either. She was pondering a family move to Arizona to be nearer to him. The only thing holding her back was the precious chinuch of their children.

Her husband encouraged her to hang on — he’d be back soon; to stay in New York and wait until the children were older, but she was very torn. And although she didn’t know when, she knew that Manny and Esther would return at some point. Then, she’d have to go back to living in a tenement, with cold water and unreliable heat.

So, spending time with Orna Zayit was completely refreshing. For the time being she could distract herself from her worries, and be the giver instead of the receiver. It wasn’t often she met someone who was in more dire straits than she, but Orna just might have filled the bill. She was in a foreign country, a foreign culture that spoke a foreign language, with no family or friends, and was facing a serious medical condition that affected not only herself but her child. And yet, Orna was always calm, always serene, always thanking Hashem for whatever came her way.

Faiga couldn’t help compare her own stressed demeanor to Orna’s placid one. Orna was like a balm to her troubled soul. Orna went each day for treatments accompanied by her husband, and Faiga saw the respectful way they treated each other, and was gratified that, in this respect, she could hold her head up high.

When Faiga’s husband had been well, and even when he hadn’t, they’d had a strong marriage. They’d always behaved nicely towards each other, and looked out for the other one. But when Zalman came down with tuberculosis, Faiga didn’t know how she would manage. Her fear had almost driven them apart. Zalman had not lost faith and had made sure they talked the matter through from beginning to end. That did help to get them back on track.

Orna was much more accepting than Faiga had been. She watched in marvel and envy as the Zayits navigated their way through the unfamiliar city, making friends wherever they went, and how people seemed to go out of their way to help them.

She could feel the pull herself, escorting them to the hospital the first few times until they could find their way on their own, helping Orna sort out her medications and find the cheapest store to fill her prescriptions, and of course, feeding them nutritious meals and caring for their boarding needs. She could almost feel the angst diminishing, aware that it was the act of giving that was healing her. She chided herself that she had been so wrapped up in her own challenges that she’d not thought to look outside of herself.

There was a whole world out there of people who needed help. The Crash had affected almost everyone. People she knew as well-off were standing on the bread lines at soup kitchens. She couldn’t imagine the shame and despair they must feel. Esther and Manny were providing her with a stipend — how grateful she was for that. She felt that Esther would agree to let her use some of that money each month to help others, but she’d write and ask so that all would be perfectly clear.

Faiga’s life was a good example of the saying “Change your place and you change your mazel.” It was good to look out a different window from time to time, see a different view and, ultimately, see yourself differently as well.

Now Orna came into the kitchen followed by Breindel and a few of the little ones. Orna and Breindel had been as thick as thieves as of late, and now they came to her with excited expressions on their faces.

“The gardens are doing beautifully,” said Orna. Orna was a gifted gardener, and knew what each plant was good for, along with the vegetables that grew there. “You got a good harvest. Look at these tomatoes!” Orna held up the bright red orbs, and the sight of them almost brought Faiga to tears. Everywhere she looked these days she saw hope, even in some home-grown window tomatoes.

“Thank you,” she said, with all her heart. “I can cook them into a delicious sauce.”

“You can also can them,” said Orna. “I would show you how. So you’ll have something to put by for the winter.”

“That would be good too,” said Faiga, moved by Orna’s concern.

“And also,” said Orna, moving closer and speaking to her softly in her ear, “I must speak to you about a shidduch for Breindel.”

To be continued . . .