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Wed May 20, 2015 at 08:05 AM PDT

Sacrifice

by Andrea D

Sacrifice
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http://www.youtube.com/...
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DD-375 U.S.S. Downes, Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941... Mid-morning...

 “Jenkins….get your fucking head down!” Seaman First Class Pantangelo yelled as a round whizzed past the boy’s head and slammed into the empty cartridge pail, sending it flying off the deck and into the water below. The kid jumped sideways, nearly going over the edge until the strong hands of the older man grabbed his shirt collar, nearly ripping it off.

“Smitty and I got this gun… and Kowalski needs someone to feed him ammo…get yer ass up to the Bofors and help him out.”

 The boy remained half-seated on the deck until the same hands that had saved him moments before pulled him off the deck and to his feet. A sudden shove was accompanied by a fatherly smile as he was pushed toward the other gun emplacement only yards away. He ran up the ladder and turned to wave to the older man when a burst of gunfire slammed into the deck just below and back down where he had been standing only moments before. He stood stock still, staring at the flying debris torn up off the deck by the gunfire and tried to peer through the haze.

“Hey….fuck it, kid…they’re gone.” The boy fought back bitter tears as a man behind him shouted.

“Get up here, kid….NOW!”

 The boy turned around and saw the Bos’n waving frantically at him. He ran the last few yards and grabbed the ammo. He watched in paralyzing panic as another Jap plane strafed the decks of Cassin and the Pennsylvania; both in dry-dock next to the Downes, tearing up both ships before flying low over him and Kowalski. He could hear the shouts of the sailors aft of his location who watched a Zero catch fire just as it flew over the Downes. The plane held altitude long enough clear the ship, slamming into a gas truck sitting on the dock a hundred or so yards away from their slip. The plane and truck disintegrated in a ball of fire that engulfed a pile of supplies.

Kowalski turned around and breathed out a sigh. The attack appeared to be over. The fire crew was just now putting out the flames on the main deck, and the sounds of the hell surrounding them were dying down even as the smoke continued to billow all across the bay. He looked at his watch. 10:07 AM. He had been at it at this position alone for nearly two hours after manning another gun further forward.

“Hey, kid...you did good.”

He turned to smile in congratulation at the new recruit; the boy had only arrived at Pearl a few days before; barely out of boot camp. But the boy didn’t answer; he was flat on his back stretched out on the deck. Holes in his shoulder and leg bore witness to his silence. But the boy looked as peaceful as anything Kowalski had seen. He was smiling; his face was nestled on a cartridge belt and his eyes were focused on his service cap, which had fallen off his head, exposing his short dirty blond hair.

“Oh, shit.”

Kowalski looked around and noticed an almost eerie calm, as if the harbor was trying to quiet itself for the sake of the survivors of the attack. He noticed two things; a letter clutched in the boy’s hand and a picture pressed tight against the inside of the kid’s cap. He picked up the cap after gently removing the letter from the boy’s grasp. He looked quickly at the picture; a girl of about seventeen or so and her boyfriend, apparently, walking down a country lane; both were smiling. Kowalski shook his head and sighed before unfolding the letter.

April 12, 1941

Dear Gerrie,

I know you don’t feel like this will ever work. You don’t have to go away. You can still change your mind. Please think of us when you get this, please. I never knew just how much I loved you until you went away. My cousin moved to New Zealand last year to help my grandpa with the farm, and she says we can move there, okay? Just think about it. I miss you so much, and I wish you would just come home. We can work it out. I look forward to seeing you at Christmas. I love you so much! XOXOXO Love,

Darryl


Kowalski looked again at the photo. The girl was what his grandmother might have called striking; her way of saying she could be prettier, but Darryl seemed to love the girl a lot; more than Kowalski could say about himself and his own girlfriend. He smiled, thinking at least that the girl would know her boyfriend had died helping to save his shipmates.

It was only then that he took a long hard look at the picture once again as his gaze went back and forth between the smiles in the photo and the angelic look on the boy's face. He stifled a sob as he shook his head before placing the photo under his own service cap, almost reverently. The letter was folded and inserted in the back pocket of his jeans.

Kowalski wasn’t a much of a regulation or spit and polish sailor; it took a lot to get him to feel connected to the century and a half plus traditions, but he bit his lip and saluted the boy before walking up the deck.

“Hey, McKenna?” Kowalski yelled as the chief walked up to the gun and blew out a relieved breath.

“Fuck, Kowalski, whatya want, a fucking medal.” Kowalski shook his head and then looked down at the fallen boy.

“Jesus and Mary, no….he’s just a fucking baby.”

The man began to weep; even in the midst the routine of horror, there are some things a grown man cannot abide, and the death of a child is one of them. McKenna had a son on the Raleigh, and he could only hope that his own boy made it out okay.

“That’s not all.”

 Kowalski took his service cap off and showed the picture to the older man. McKenna looked at it and down at the body on the deck. He fought back tears as he knelt down. Speaking softly, he offered up a silent prayer, meaning to talk to the Padre as soon as possible for the boy’s last rites. And then he did something unheard of for a Chief Petty Officer, but perhaps entire

ly understandable for a father worried about his own child. He leaned further down and kissed the boy’s forehead. He stripped down to his tee and placed his shirt over the boy’s face, but not before gazing at the boy’s soft peaceful countenance.

“Hey, McKenna? XO wants to know about casualties? You got anybody hit?” A voice came from the deck above. Kowalski waved to the chief as if to say, ‘I’ve got this.’

“Pantangelo and Smitty at the gun over there took it for good,” he said, pointing down the deck.

“And just one here. Jenkins!” He stifled a sob.

“Who? Jenkins? Aw fuck!”

“Yeah….”

“We gotta have volunteers for duty here, and you two just volunteered.” The man above them laughed at the typical service humor, even more ironic in light of the fact that the men would have borne their mates with gladness. Looking down he shook his head and touched his chest with his palm as if to apologize before walking back down the deck. McKenna looked at Kowalski and the two nodded simultaneously; saluting the boy’s body as McKenna spoke one last time before bearing the boy away in solemn silence.

“So long, Seaman Second Class Gerry Jenkins. We hardly knew ye, but it was a privilege and that’s a fact. God and Mary go with you!"

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http://www.youtube.com/...
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Remember...

Davenport, Iowa, December 13, 1941

Alison sat on the couch sipping a late cup of morning coffee. Daryl was due over at about eleven or so, which left her enough time to either finish the chapter on Ferber’s latest or start a letter to her baby brother. She chose the latter.

As she got up she dislodged the large sleeping red tabby that clung to her thigh; she was glad she was wearing the gabardine slacks her brother handed ‘up’ to her since she planned on doing some work around the house that morning. She found her pen on the secretary along with some stationary, but moved back to the couch along with the photo album she used as a portable desk.

“Let’s see…what should we tell Gerrie, Wilkie?”

The cat raised his head from his already resumed posture of sleep and she swore he was grinning. The name was playful; her parents had always been staunch Republicans and the cat was almost homage to their memory even if she did vote for Roosevelt.

“Hmmm….Dear Gerrie... It’s awfully cold here. I envy you the weather at least. Daryl says it’s positively dreamy there, but we still can’t wait for you to come home. I’m glad at least that you might be able to leave early since Mommy…”

Alison was at least glad that she hadn’t started writing; the writing paper absorbed the few tears that fell before she wiped her face with the sleeve of her shirt.

“Why does God do that? She was so young…” Alison looked at the picture of the three of them that sat on the mantel. She and Gerrie had only each other now. Well…Gerrie had Darryl. Maybe she’d find someone, but who’d want to marry a ‘spinster’ at 31 when all the dolls had the boys' attention; even those her own age.

She placed the pen on the end table next to the ink bottle and set the album and paper on the coffee table in front of her. The cat took that as a sign and moved over. He half-hopped into her lap and began nudging and treading on her thigh once again; even the gabardine didn’t protect her this time and she flinched as his claws penetrated both fabric and skin.

“Ow, Wilkie!” She swatted him playfully on the rump and he hopped off the couch and ran into the kitchen with a loud ‘rrrowwww!’ Alison was about the return her attention to Edna and company when a knock came at the door. Daryl wasn’t due over for another hour or so. She rose and went answer the knock. Opening it, she found a very nervous looking man about her age who was holding a telegram in his hand.

“Ma’am?” He tipped his cap politely, but his demeanor remained nervous. She would come to remember the look on his face; sadness beyond his time, she would say.

“Yes?”

“Am I at the right place?” He asked with a quiver in his voice. She sensed that this might be his first day on the job. The flap of his pouch was open, and she could see that he likely had a very full day. It wasn’t his first day, but it was the first of too many deliveries just like the telegram he held in his hand.

“For what?” She said, but her smiled seemed to diffuse his nervousness at least enough to continue.

“Oh…I’m sorry. Is this the residence of Mrs. Agnes Jenkins?” Alison’s eyes widened just a bit, and she nodded.”

“Oh…” He looked very surprised, which actually surprised Alison as well. Before he could speak, she interrupted.

“I’m sorry. My mother passed earlier this year. I’m her daughter Alison. Can I help you?

“I’m sorry,” he continued with another exchanged nervous pleasantry.

“I guess…they didn’t tell me what to do if the party….expired”

“Go ahead…what’s your name?”

“Jimmy Falcone, Miss.”

“Go ahead, Jimmy.”

 His look seemed to indicate a strong reluctance so she nodded and smiled. He didn’t return the look but gazed downward instead at the piece of paper in his hand. And his eyes welled with tears. He looked up at her and took a deep breath and began to read.

“WUX Washington DC December 10, 1941, Mrs. Agnes D. Jenkins, 1278 Parson Street, Davenport, Iowa.” He paused.

“The Secretary of War desires that I tender his deepest sympathy to you in the loss of your son, Gerald A. Jenkins, Seaman Second Class, Radioman, U.S.S. Downes…”

 His voice began to crack. Alison put her hand over her mouth and started to sob. Jimmy was completely at a loss, so he did what he knew had to be the only thing he could do. He pulled Alison into a hug and patted her back as she shook in his arms.

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” He almost would have appeared to be apologizing for his part in the unwanted delivery of the message, but his own tears reflected the sadness he felt for the girl in his arms. After what felt like an eternity to both of them, Alison pulled away.

“I….I have some coffee…would you like some?”

 Jimmy shook his head reluctantly. At another time and another place; even then he was sorely tempted to place the bag with the remaining telegrams on her front porch and join her.

“I…I have to get going.”

He pointed to the pouch. Alison stared at the many messages that peeked out of the pouch and realized she was just one of many that day. She shook her head and her face turned an extremely embarrassed shade of red, wondering why she had made his job so personal to her. She reached out and shook his hand and came away with the telegram which she grasped tightly in a fist.

“Thank you.” She paused and wondered at the awkward and nearly foolish sentiment of her comment until he nodded and half frowned; he knew that she was glad at least that someone cared. He bit his lip as tears began to fall. Nodding once again, he smiled before turning and walking out the front door....

Alison had barely contained herself when she heard another knock. She rushed up and opened it, hoping to find that the kind man had returned, only to find Daryl standing on the porch instead. He smiled as she remained silent. Shaking his head, he stepped inside.

“So, Ali, my dear, what’s up?” She held up the telegram in her hand, crumpled. His look grew puzzled until she said at last.

“Honey….Daryl?” He shook his head no, almost defiant as she finished.

“Gerrie’s gone, Daryl….she’s gone.”

Daryl began to weep, and Alison held him, stroking his hair; wishing she could ease his pain even as her own threatened to tear her heart in two. Her gaze fell upon the mantel once again. Two other pictures adorned the room. One of a young man and a young woman walking down a country road; a greeting card moment of two in love.

And a smaller older photo of two little girls sitting at a small folding table having their tea with a few stuffed animals. She shook her head at the supreme loss and pulled Daryl closer and cried as hard as she would ever cry. And she would remember...

In loving memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. I hope my work does justice to that sacrifice and to honor them on this coming Memorial Day, May, 25, 2015
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The Pacific
From the Miniseries
Composed by Hans Zimmer

I'll Be Seeing You
composed by
Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal
performed by
The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
featuring Francis Albert Sinatra

Discuss

Fri Mar 27, 2015 at 09:41 AM PDT

Kilion's Tears

by Andrea D

There are so many other things Jesus did. If they were all written down, each of them, one by one, I can't imagine a world big enough to hold such a library of books. John 21:25  The Message
~ / / ~

The two boys stood behind a large man in the crowd; their view was obstructed by his girth. The older of the two was perched on a small boulder behind the man and peered over his shoulder.

“What’s happening? I can’t see a thing.” The smaller of the two called up to his brother.

“They’re on crosses… all of them…the two on the sides must have been thieves… maybe cheaters or even killers.” He laughed.

“Come on, Rueben…what’s going on?”

“The two are upside down. The one in the middle…The Roman just stabbed him with a spear and he…he’s quiet…” The younger boy tried to climb up on the rock but his brother pushed him back down, knocking him to the ground with a thud. The boy began to cry.

“Oh don’t be such a girl, Kilion…I hardly hit you…. Oh…the Roman just shook his head. And everybody is yelling…’save yourself,’ or something like that. And his name…Ye…Ye….Yehoshua…”

“What…what’s his name,” Kilion called up, his voice in a panic.

“Yehoshua..yeah… that’s it…Yehoshua. Hey…didn’t you meet a man named that a few days ago?” Reuben teased his brother. The smaller boy tried to climb on the rock and his brother pushed him down once again.

“You’re such a girl Ki… what a baby!” He called after Kilion as the boy ran up the hill toward the crosses. Paying little heed, the boy ran right into a man standing next to three women. All of them were crying. He hadn’t seen another man cry since his father buried his mother.

“Oh, little girl,” the man said, making the same mistake many adults had been making since he was very young.

“This is no place for a child.”

As the man said that, he turned and looked up at the man hanging on the cross in the center. The man was indeed the man Kilion had met days before. The one who had assured the boy that everything would be all right; that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had a plan for Kilion’s life. And now…those plans were smashed just as sure as if someone had put them in an alabaster jar and thrown them against the stony escarpment that lay mere feet away from where he stood.

The man looked at Kilion and then turned slightly and smiled at the man standing beside the boy.

“Here, little one; stand next to us.” It was almost an invitation, as if something good was going to take place instead of the horror that played out before the boy’s eyes.

“Come…it will be over soon.” One of the women pulled the boy close and embraced him; almost sheltering him while pointing to the scene before them. A flash of lightning split the sky while overhead he heard the roar of thunder. The crowd quieted as the man on the cross said almost in a whisper,

“There is nothing else to accomplish…it is finished.” And a moment later he was gone.

One of the women was standing beside the man next to Kilion. She stooped a bit and pulled his face gently toward hers.

“That’s my son…whatever he said he would do for you he will,” she said even as she smiled through the tears that fell from her face.

How foolish…even as she said the words the enormity of her grief overtook her faith, and she fell on the ground, weeping. Her voice was joined, not just by the other two women and the man, but many of the people in the crowd; their lament like that of a widow who appeals without hope to death to return her spouse.

But there was mocking…and laughter. Kilion looked around and watched as men and even some women smiled and pointed at the men on the crosses; their faces etched in an almost evil celebration. It was too much for him to handle. He pulled away from the man and ran back down the hill.

All of his hopes and dreams…his prayers had been daunted by a single moment in time. Whatever promises the man had made; whatever arrangements the man had bargained for with the God of the Universe died on the cross, and all of the boy’s hopes died with him.

“I know the plans I have for you,” the man had said softly, taking Kilion aside after a long discourse followed by even longer prayer and such. The boy was tired and scared that day, but the man’s voice and smile had put him as much at ease as he ever had known.

“They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” The man had said. He told Kilion everything the boy had ever known…every hurt; every taunt; every disappointment. The mornings of frustrated grief after nights of prayer. When would his…when would her deliverance come? The reflection in the puddle on the ground or the pool or the stream that mocked the poor child; what was she? Who was she? Even her name? Who would ever name their child ‘weakling?’ Was it prophecy? An omen of doom to be ever in the wrong form; ever to be alone with no hope?

But the man had said, “plans for good and not for disaster,” hadn’t he? A future? A hope? What hope did a little girl have when she was doomed in less than a year to stand before the congregation and say those words, ‘Today I am a man?’

~ / / ~

Kilion wandered for hours…. the hours turned into nightfall and daybreak… again and again until he realized he was standing in a field next to an orchard. The field backed up to a hill where it was laid open with a big hole like a cave. A tall man, brightly illuminated, sat on top of a large stone next to the cave, talking to three women.  Even at that distance, he recognized two of the women as two of those he had met at the horrible scene nights before.

The tall man held his arms open wide and he seemed to be smiling. He pointed and two of the women literally ran off up the bluff right past him and down a path toward the city gate, leaving the man alone with the woman he had met… the one who told him that things would be over. And then suddenly as if by magic, the man disappeared; leaving the woman alone. She looked lost and scared. Turning to leave, she nearly ran into another bright figure.

The second man stood nearly up to her, but held his hands out when she went to touch him. They talked for a few moments before she nodded and ran up the bluff past Kilion, following the trail her friends had taken only moments before. And the man turned and faced the boy; even at that distance some how he felt the man ...it couldn't be him, could it? He was speaking to Kilion.

“Believe.”

The boy grew excited. The man…was alive… somehow he was alive. He had healed and touched lives over and over. Maybe Kilion’s prayers would come true after all? He pulled his robe out from his neck and peered down, only to be disappointed. Nothing had changed. Nothing. The promises weren’t true. He would have a future, but it would be a sad and frightening existence. He didn’t plan to cry; he had cried every night and every morning for years. But cry he did. He fell to the ground and wept; feeling worse than ever; disappointed over the betrayal of a man… the faith in the man who had promised.

~ / / ~

After that, it was a blur again. Somehow Kilion made it all the way back home, not even recalling how or how long it took to get there. It was almost mid-day when he walked into the house; finding his brother and his father holding hands while reclining at the table in prayer. His father jumped up and ran to his side.

“Oh, child, we were so worried.” He kissed the boy on the neck over and over, repeating some quiet blessing and thanks while squeezing him tightly. As he pulled back, he felt a tug at his robe.

“I’m so sorry, Ki…Abba and I talked. I should ask forgiveness, he said, and that’s what I’m doing. I was so mean to you… and with the man dying and all that. It was bad, and I’m so sorry.” Reuben had been crying; his tears nearly matching those of his father.

“I know, child. The man…it felt like when Ama died. It hurt so bad. I was in the crowd, but you ran before I could get to you.”

“He promised, Abba.” The boy protested. He couldn’t tell his father what the promise was.

“I know, child. I felt the same way when Ama…when she got sick I prayed and prayed, O dear Abba God…it was like he didn’t hear me. Believe me, child, I know.” Kilion felt ashamed; his prayers were selfish compared to those of his father’s. What right did he have? But it still hurt; like sitting at a table filled with food, starving; only to have the meal taken away at the last minute. Better he had never heard the man. Better still that he had never been born.

“Your mother had so much more faith than I. It was like she knew everything would be alright . Your mother was such a talker…She could talk about almost anything, but she talked the most about you and your brother. How there was …what did she call it…Well, she even quoted the prophet. Now I have trouble remembering what I said only a few days ago and here she is quoting the prophet. She made me remember it… Now how does that go?” Aaron turned to his older boy who smiled.

“Here, Abba…let me help. ‘For I know?’” The boy smiled.

“Oh yes, ‘For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” He smiled at Kilion and the boy shook his head before bursting into tears.

“It will be alright, child. I know. You are special…not like other boys. Your mother and I talked about it.” Aaron hugged Kilion and stroked his hair.

“Your Ama would say, ‘Aaron, make sure you help Reuben with your work so he can grow up and be a good man and a good worker. He will build.” Reuben smiled when his father said ‘good man.’ For all the teasing he did to Kilion, he really was a good boy at heart.

“And you?” Aaron smiled.

“Ki…we’re going to live with Uncle Dov and Aunt Miriam! It’s going to be so much fun!”

“Move? But why? Abba… what did Ama say about me?” The boy looked into his father’s eyes and saw the presence of something he’d seen all along but only just then understood. His father had the heart of the Everlasting Father. The man smiled even as the tears streamed down his cheeks.

“Oh, she talked about you; how you would be such a help; she didn’t know, but now you will help your Aunt Miriam and your Cousin Rebekka and your Cousin Avigail” He smiled and winked at Reuben.

“We’re leaving tomorrow. Abba has sold his business to Uncle Shimon and we have enough to move to Nain and live there with Uncle Dov.”

“But what about me, Abba? What did Ama say?”

“Well, child, we will leave tomorrow before mid-day. Aaron ben Yamin will go to live with his brother and his brother’s wife and children. Reuben ben Aaron will leave along with his brother Kilion. But when we arrive? Aaron ben Yamin will join his brother Dov and his brother’s son Judah in business making chairs and tables and nice things with his son Reuben?

“And me, Abba?” The boy put his head down, feeling left out and defeated until his father stepped close and hugged him once again. He gently lifted the child’s head with his hand and said finally,

“Miriam will have so much more help and a blessing to her and her daughters when their cousin Ruth comes to live with them.

“Ruth?” The boy…the child…the girl finally asked, her head down once again.

“Yes, blessed daughter; Ruth.”

~ / / ~

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 The Message
~ / / ~

The Mother's Love
from the Motion Picture Soundtrack
of Ben Hur
composed by Miklos Rozsa
http://www.youtube.com/...

Discuss

Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 11:25 PM PST

A Malke Vi a Lalke

by Andrea D

A Malke Vi a Lalke
(A Queen Like a Doll)

From A Miracle of Chanukah
http://www.dailykos.com/...

When I was little…about ten, I met a boy. His name was Aaron Blumenfeld. Yes. Your father Aaron. He was a very good boy who was kind to everybody. When I was teased by other children, he stuck up for me and protected me. You know like the stories you and Judith love to read about knights and damsels and dragons? He was a knight, and maybe just a little, the other children were like dragons. He and his family moved away, and I thought I’d never see him again.

Well...years later we ended up in Warsaw...and then what should have been a home became a ghetto. It was around Passover of all times. After the Germans broke through the wall and started the killing, my mother was afraid for me. I was only fifteen and she feared for my life. Somehow Uncle Herschel was able to sneak me out…it was almost a whirlwind running through attics and then on rooftops and somehow out of the city. But as I ran away I was shot. The Walesa family…they found me and nursed me to health....

December 1944, somewhere between Lublin and the Russian Border…

Snow had at least departed for the time being, leaving behind mud and muck but also an unseasonable warmth and welcome comfort. Esther would have grown tired of the chores at one time, but now most every day brought joy and gratitude to G_d. And some days wavered between faith and shame. She looked down at her frail body; almost doll-like since she was small, even for a girl. Even for a girl….

She breathed in the mixture of fresh air with only a whiff of the pasture outside and smiled. Somehow things were exactly as they should have been, she noted, as she raked the floor of the small barn. Her voice was pleasant as she sang a song her mother taught her.

A malke vi a lalke,
mit kleyne printselekh
mit yontefdike kleydelekh
(1)

She laughed as the nanny goat began to bleat happily at her singing. She never thought she had a good voice, and now that things had changed, her singing had become almost pleasant to her own ears, despite the journey she was forced to take to bring her to the chorus she shared with the cows and goats and the one ewe lamb that Mamma Walesa owned. She blushed as she remembered the shameful implication of the words meant for her alone, but even at that, the song was not quite fitting for the season and she began again with a new tune.

(Oy), Chanukah oy Chanukah
A yontif a sheyner,
A lustiker a freylekher
Nisht do nokh azoyner
Ale nakht mit dreydlech shpiln mir,
Frishe heyse latkes, esn on a shir.
(2)

A few minutes later her work was done for the morning and she walked out of the barn and down the small hill to the house. She rounded a small bluff and saw that four men stood next to the short fence in front of the cottage. They wore rough-looking grins and dirty uniforms; Russian by the looks of them. She cringed. Too many years of war already in her young life had made her both cautious and confused. And her life was not safe if the secret she shared with Mamma Walesa would be discovered. She continued to walk slowly down the hill, still absentmindedly singing.

Geshvinder, tsindt kinder
Di Chanukah likhtlech on,
Zogt "Al Hanisim", loybt Got far di nisim,
Un lomir ale tantsen in kon.
Zogt "Al Hanisim", loybt Got far di nisim,
Un lomir ale tantsen in kon.
(3)

Ah, Mamma? A pretty girl? Your daughter,“ one of the soldiers teased. Esther shuddered at his words; fearing that no one was safe, no matter which side they were on, since soldiers from Russia and soldiers from Germany were no friends of the Poles, and even less for a girl like her. She cringed and went to back up, but bumped into a short hedge and stumbled.

She would have fallen to the ground but strong hands caught her and kept her from harm. She looked up into the man’s eyes and saw only peace and gentle care. But she pulled away quickly and ran into the cottage past the startled soldiers and Mamma Walesa. She closed the door behind her and gasped. The man who kept her from falling was no stranger, and she feared that he would reveal the secret she kept to the peril of her own life.

A short while later....

“Yes,” Mamma Walesa said softly. “You are kind. I can see it in your eyes.” She stared at the young man who had rescued Esther from falling. Esther could hear the talking from inside the cottage and she breathed a sigh of relief after listening to them; they showed unusual respect for the older woman. She had worried when the other men had joked in a somewhat course manner, but the younger man glared at them, they quickly apologized. Two of them were Russian and the man in charge seemed to be a Pole, but Esther knew the young man was Jewish… from Warsaw. She sighed as she recalled their last meeting....

Lodz, Poland, 1937...

“Never mind them,” the boy said.

“They’re only afraid of what will happen, and picking on you makes them feel better about themselves and the way things will go.” He used his arm in a broad sweep as a reminder of how life already become for them.

“If you go…” the voice was weak and fearful; the body slight and almost gangly; perhaps only a little from dearth of food but more from how G_d had designed?

“I pray ….but I must go anyway.” His family insisted, and he sighed in frustration.

“I fear for the future, the had said. Life had been a forbidden gamble for both of them. He looked away, almost as if he had already departed.

“I’m sorry,” the young man spoke quietly. Forbidden love in the midst of hatred for them already making things doubly impossible; maybe exponentially unapproachable. He stepped closer and kissed the face that beamed from love and admiration and pride over him. Aaron didn’t want to go for so many reasons even as duty and life called from beyond the moment. Aaron Blumenfeld and his family were leaving, perhaps forever, and it was sad…..

"Esther? We have company. These nice men are joining us for dinner. They will be staying in the barn tonight. Would you get some blankets for them?” Mama Walesa put her hand on the girl’s shoulder in encouragement.

“Do not worry. I believe everything will be fine.” An easy thing to say in the midst of dangerous risk, but Sophie Walesa displayed a calm that Esther had only beheld once before when she came to live with the old woman the few years before.

A few minutes later…

“You can use the clean straw over here for tonight.” She spoke almost in a whisper with her head down, praying with all that was holy that the young man would not recognize her. A moment later she felt a gentle touch as her chin was raised.

“It is good to see you alive,” he said with a big smile. She shook his grasp off her chin; wanting to flee. Mamma Walesa had done what she could to help, but even the best surgeons could not have done anything to change what horrific wounds to body and soul had wrought. She began to cry, hoping that the other soldiers would not discover what the young man already knew, and that the young man would just go away.

“Don’t be scared, little one. I am the same Aaron Blumenfeld who knew you then, no matter who or what you may be now. I haven’t stopped thinking about you since we parted those many years ago.” His departure had been hard enough, but then Warsaw and Yad Vashem+…. He was gone and she was alone and scared after ending up on a different path. Those big kind eyes that gave her strength when she was small and weak and helpless now made me feel strong and alive.

Aaron smiled; his strength seemed to push Esther’s nervousness aside. She looked down anyway; still ashamed of her voyage from the person she had been in the past. He looked around and then stepped to the door of the barn. His comrades were nowhere to be seen; likely helping out Mamma Walesa with dinner or at least standing at the doorway of the cottage in anticipation. He walked back and pulled Esther into a hug.

“I’m….I’m so sorry, Aaron. I….” She buried her face in his chest; still much shorter than him in so many ways. He gathered her close and hugged her.

“Nothing to be sorry about, myyn lieb.” He kissed her forehead.

“But….I am….I cannot….I am so sorry,” she plead. Esther Walesa had come full circle even if she felt unworthy of the trip. Asher Bucholz died in a field outside Warsaw two years before in a way, only to be resurrected as Esther Walesa. A gift of G_d and a blessing both to her and to the young man who had never stopped loving her.

“No one….ever….just you and me, myyn tyya’r.” A secret that life would never betray. He kissed her on the cheek.

“Will you….now that we are free, myyn lieb? Will you be mine?” His eyes had filled with tears and he looked away; his time of nervous fear. Nothing in life is a guarantee but for the grace of the Almighty. She touched his lips with her fingers. She pulled his face close, kissing him gently on the cheek.

“Yes….If….if you’ll have me.” He didn’t wait to speak but kissed her and held her tight. Of course, he would have her and she have him, even if life had arranged a very circuitous journey to bring them together.

And so, on the 18th Day of December in 1944 – the second day of Tevet and the last day of Hanukkah, Esther Bucholz Walesa was united with Aaron Blumenfeld in the witness of the Almighty and Mama Sophie Walesa and Senior Sergeant Arkady Garanin and Private Dimitri Borodin and Junior Sergeant Anatol Krupka as well as two cows, two goats, and one ewe lamb.

Gliklekh iz der meylekh af der velt,
er shmeykhlt tsu der malke un er kvelt
(4)

“I never stopped loving you,” he said as he pulled her closer. The romance was quickly set aside as Aaron leaned in and placed her left hand on the wooden stock supporting the barrel of the AVT-40.

“I love you so much,” Esther said in return as she pulled the trigger, firing the weapon for the first and only time without haste or peril, as the next time would not be at a tree but at the enemy. And while things were very anxious and challenging, the difficulties they had known growing up had steeled them to the world they still faced and brought them closer. And even as life swirled and tossed and turned them around, they did finally live happily ever after.

Chag Urim Sameach!
Happy Chanukah!

A Malke Af Peysekh
(A Queen for Passover)

Song from Yiddish Stage by
Louis Gilrod from tradition

(1) A queen like a doll,
with her little princesses
in their holyday finery

(4) This king is so happy with his world.
He smiles at his queen, and he beams.

(2) O Chanukah
Traditional

(Oh), Chanukah, Oh Chanukah
A beautiful celebration.
Such a cheerful and happy one,
There is none like it.
Every night with the dreidels we will play,
Fresh, hot latkes we will eat endlessly.

(3) Come quickly children
Light the Chanukah candles
Say "Al Hanissim", praise God for the miracles,
And we will all dance together in a circle!
Say "Al Hanissim", praise God for the miracles,
And we will all dance together in a circle!

+Yad Vashem - http://www.yadvashem.org/...

Discuss

Wed Nov 26, 2014 at 10:47 PM PST

The Journey

by Andrea D

Over the river and through the woods….

Sean staggered almost headlong into a snowdrift.   He sat up and rubbed his face; stung from the icy bite of the powder that covered his face and seemed to merge with his tears.  He looked around and noticed it was even darker than only a few moments before as clouds drifted between the sun and where he sat.  He stood up and wiped the rest of the snow from his cheek.  A bit of snow fell down between the ripped collar of his hoodie and chilled his chest.

Oh, how the wind does blow!

The walk was only meant as the respite from the anger and even screed that came from his foster parents.  Whatever good intent they held when he joined their family was lost when the compensation from the state was outweighed by their ignorance.  He bit his lip as he looked around.  He must have walked at least five miles through the woods, but for all he knew he could have been walking around in circles.  Turning completely around, he could only see the grey and dull green of fir trees, with nothing in sight.  But then he noticed a dim light off to his left.

It stings the toes…

He plodded through the deep snow; tripping more than a few times on limbs of fallen trees hidden underneath the thick blanket of white. He had returned to crying, but who could blame him. Even at fourteen, it’s very painful to feel unwelcomed and even disliked by people who should care, even if the care is only fostered by a check from the state.  He wiped his face, but it did little at this point to remove anything since by this time the ice had caked in the pores of his mittens and they were adding more pain than they removed.

And bites the nose…

After about twenty or so minutes, he stepped out of the thick pile of snow into a wind-blown clearing in front of a rustic looking cabin.  He walked tentatively up to the door, hoping at least to find someone at home.  Maybe he could make a phone call.  But whom to call?  The family probably was happy he was gone.  His social worker?  On Thanksgiving?  Maybe just ask for a cup of tea and then be on his way, wherever that was supposed to lead.  He sighed and knocked on the door.

As over the ground we go…

The door opened and a kind looking old woman stood with her hand on the door frame.  She smiled and without a word opened the door wider and used her other hand in a broad gesture to welcome him in.  As he stepped into the cabin he noticed the scent of rosemary; a steaming pot was hanging over the fire in the hearth...  He looked at her and she smiled again.

“You must be very cold?  Here, let me take that and you can warm yourself by the fire,” she said, pointing to his sweatshirt.  Her voice was as soothing and he felt safe.  He took off his hoodie, almost reluctantly at first, considering what he wore underneath, but her look disarmed his fears even as tears spilled from his eyes.

“So sad, dear one.  I’m sorry.”  

The first time anyone ever uttered those words to him in his life; they urged more tears from him, but they were healing.  She took him by the hand and led him to a large rough-hewn wooden rocking chair that sat just to the side of the hearth.  Pulling it over, she helped him sit down in front of the fire.  Kissing him on the forehead, she smiled once again as she draped a brightly colored crocheted blanket over his shoulders.

“I knew you’d come,’ she said, as she walked over to a tall dresser on the other side of the room.  She pulled out the top drawer and produced a brush and hand mirror.  Walking back, she stood behind Neil and began to brush his hair.  He winced at first; the suddenness of her gesture coupled with the foreign feeling of being valued sent him into a crying jag.  She leaned forward and held him while he shook in her arms.

“There, there….it’s going to be alright, dear one.  You’ll see.

Over the river and through the woods….

“I don’t understand….” Sean looked up at her.  She was crying as well, but her tears were pleased and not sad at all.  She smiled and resumed brushing his hair.  It all felt like a dream or a fairy tale.

“I know what you’re thinking.  But it’s really alright.  You’re here, quite by accident, and not at all by accident really.  Providence for us both, I suppose.”  She continued to brush his hair.  It had gotten longer in the past several months; another argument on top of too many times of rejection and hurt.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she said.  He shook his head in confusion.  He wished it was a dream because it was so real and so wonderful, but even then he cursed the moment; fearing it would go away just like all the other dreams he had.  Hope continued to fade in his life day after day, and the long walk could just as well have ended in a river bank or snow drift.  He continued to shake his head until he felt a gentle hand lift his chin a bit.  He looked into her eyes once again, but instead of just welcome and relief he thought he saw recognition.

“They don’t love you.   The real you.  They never have, and I have loved you since your mother handed you to me when you were born.  I prayed you’d find me….all this time.  I couldn’t …they wouldn’t let me see you…All the families who never loved you.”

“I….I don’t understand….”

“Look out the window….” The woman pointed behind her at the window by the door.  He rose and walked unsteadily toward the front of the cabin and looked out.  To his left, he saw the barely visible outline of his footprints in the blanket of white that seemed to grow as the snow began to fall once again.  He turned back and shrugged his shoulders, which caused the blanket she had wrapped him in to fall to the cabin floor.  

“Look again,” she said with a soft laugh.  He shook his head in confusion and she raised her right hand; palm up in encouragement.  He turned around and looked out the window once again.  The snow was still falling, but the clouds had parted, leaving the white field bathed in moonlight. He looked to his left once again, and he could see some dimly lit houses in the distance.  One of them from where he had departed only a few hours before, but to his right, he saw a brightly lit house only perhaps a short walk from the cabin.

“Go ahead, Sean,” she said.  He turned at the mention of his name.  He didn’t recall mentioning who he was.  And he had not even asked her who she was either, but she smiled at him again as if he had known her all his life.  

“I….I’m afraid.”  He said, casting his gaze to the floor.  He stared at his feet; only minutes before shod in worn canvas sneakers, but now barefoot.  The floor seemed to grow warmer and he noticed the feel of carpet beneath his toes.  And as he raised his gaze a bit he felt as if he was wrapped once again, but instead of a blanket, his warmth and comfort came from the woman who embraced him.

“Don’t be afraid, dear child.  You’re almost home.”  She used her hand once again in a broad gesture at the doorway, which was now open.  The snow had stopped and the view through the doorway was almost dazzling.  White and silver and pewter and strangely bright grays and even blacks reflected the moonlight, causing the yellowish light to dance and twinkle.  He found himself growing light headed and almost unable to stand, but the woman smiled as she gently ushered him through the door…..

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandmother's house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandmother's house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for 'tis Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood—
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
as over the ground we go.

“There you are,” the kind woman smiled as she looked down.

“ Mamó?......  I had a dream.   I dreamt I had to travel a long way in the snow to get to you….”

“It has been a very long journey, but now you’re home”

“Where…where are Mom and Dad?”

“Oh honey…. Your Dad?  I don’t know…. And your Mom?  You don’t remember?  It must be.....”

“Mm.....Mom died…..when I was born…..I remember you told me.... She gave me to you, but they….they took me away….”  

Crying is so hard when old memories arise like the dark chill of a moonless night, but in the clear light of the woman’s presence, peace came back quickly.  

 “There’s that smile…. I was so afraid for so long that you’d never smile again, mo stór.  But now?”  The woman sighed and pulled back just a bit, removing the eclipse-like glare as the overhead light softened.

“They said I could sneak in and kiss you before they take you back up to your room, but I wanted to be the first to say hello to my new granddaughter.”  The woman began to cry softly, but with a smile that broadened as she leaned close to kiss her grandchild.  

No longer Sean, although Sean would always be a part her, the boy would finally be happy as Shavon Aulinn.  She looked up at her grandmother and felt every bit of love the woman had blessed her with so many years ago and she began to weep; soft but happy sobs echoed her grandmother’s crying even as the woman kissed her on the forehead.

“I’ll be by later, mo chailín.”  Shavon’s grandmother said as she squeezed the girl’s hand.  

“I am so grateful for you, mo chroi.  So thankful!”  She smiled again as the girl drifted back into a very lovely sleep.

~ // ~
Some journeys are circuitous and we often feel like we’ll never arrive.  Like when we were little and we asked if we were ‘there’ yet.  But even in the most arduous of journeys we can find hope, and that leads us to believe that things will indeed be better.  For some, the magic of the trip comes from the kind touch of a friend or the kiss of a loving family member when all others have left the sojourner to a lonely road.  And some find magic in the skill of a caring doctor and a thoughtful nurse.  And it’s for those moments, even if they are for someone else and not myself where I can embrace the joy that blesses others and I can be very grateful.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Discuss

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 05:41 AM PST

Remember Me...

by Andrea D

https://www.youtube.com/...
* * * * *

The girl stood behind an elderly woman as the line inched slowly forward. The woman turned and whispered.

“So sweet.” Ione nodded politely as the woman smiled. Eileen was perhaps the sweetest girl that Ione had ever known. She swallowed hard and bit her lip as her face grew warm. The tears had been flowing for some time, but soundless and private. The woman smiled again and turned her attention forward.

“It’s such a waste,’ the young woman to Ione’s left said to no one as she walked back to her seat. The line had stopped moving, which wasn’t a surprise. But it still felt almost odd that so many seemed interested in Eileen now. Ione's nostrils flared; tears that had been only sad minutes before became angry as well; a bitter reminder of the day. She balled her fists and prayed for strength and self-control.

“Don’t you dare!” she mouthed wordlessly as she looked down; wanting to yell and scream and shout while staying quiet and out of the way and safe.

“Were you close?”

Another voice; this one from behind her. Ione turned to find two women embracing; tears flowing freely from their eyes even as Ione wiped away her own. She wanted someone to ask her about Eileen. Someone to learn how precious she was. Someone to care about her before things changed. And she wanted no one to ask. Eileen was too much like her for her to speak freely. Secrets she and Eileen treasured would never be valued by anyone but them. And speaking freely would betray both of them. She lowered her head once again and began to sob; whatever control she had departed swiftly as if to abandon her. She shook as she cried and one of the women standing to her side touched her shoulder.

“Please…..control yourself. You’re making a scene,” the woman hissed in correction. Ione winced as the woman removed her hand. A moment later she stood at the head of the line. Looking down, she saw that Eileen was as peaceful as Ione had ever seen, but she also looked like a stranger. Dressed primly and with no sign of whom the girl had been.

Ione started shaking again and the woman to her right turned and stared.

“I’m…..sorry….” a voice not her own came from her throat. She shook her head once and stepped out of line and walked quickly out the side door into the large hallway. A moment later she was joined by teenage girl.

“I’m so sorry. They didn’t listen. They never listened.”

The girl grabbed Ione’s arm and pulled her close. Ione…. Ian held his sister and looked back at the casket as the rest of the family gathered around his aunt and gave her words of encouragement and agreement.

Eileen…..Allen McDonough lay carefully and coldly in a dark blue suit; her hair cut short and her face bereft of any makeup save for the final attention by a man who never knew the girl. The boy Allen would be remembered by the family forever but only Ian….Ione and Maggie, his sister…her sister, would ever remember their cousin Eileen. And they wept.

Transgender Day of Remembrance
November 20, 2014
for Tony and Taiko, and for Chrisie....
may we always remember...
Discuss

Fri Nov 07, 2014 at 07:37 PM PST

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep...

by Andrea D

Chosin Reservoir, South Hamgyong Province, North Korea, December 2, 1950….

The blare of the horns visited them in the dead of night once again. Sounds mean to invoke terror, but the men in the foxholes had almost steeled themselves to the horror they faced almost hour by hour, even if the sounds would have set anyone else to frightened cowering. The boy hunkered further down in the hole, trying to keep from being a target like his buddies.

Between the long row of trees and their foxholes lay unattended bodies; left alone, covered by new snow while the peril still threatened each of the survivors. Help was due, and would come, they knew. The timing was the only hitch in their hope, since it still felt like help would not come in time. There had been an almost soothing predictability to the noise, however. So long as the horns blared, it seemed, it would be safe. When they ceased, the inevitable onslaught of the Chinese would come down on them with a vengeance. The boy tucked his head tight against his chest and prayed.

* * * * *

“Now I lay me down to sleep….”
Visions of being home and safe only a few years before filled his head as the blare of the horns seemed to fade at the gentle intrusion of the Andrew Sisters. He smiled as his vision was filled with a scene long held dear but desperately held secret. A tall woman was in the middle of the living room, dancing with her teenage daughter. The prom was just about a week away and she wanted her girl to be ready, even though no knock would ever come at the door with flowers and candy. It was a quickstep version of the same dance they did for just a few years after the head of the family lost his life on a beach in Sicily.

“I’d vote for you if I could,’ the mother said to daughter. Prom Queen would have been a great honor and a delight for both, but in 1947, it wasn’t something to hope for...ever. The girl nodded and smiled. Going to the prom would have been wonderful, but there, at that moment in her home, just being herself was a joy, even if that joy never left their living room.

“Maybe someday, honey.” Her mother held back tears. Loving, protecting, motherly tears that shed nearly every night for her child. She kissed the girl on the forehead and stepped over to the phonograph. In a moment, In the Mood wafted through the room as she resumed the dance with her daughter……

* * * * *

The music abruptly stopped; both in the daydream and in the cold real dirt and mud of the hillside that night, only to be followed by the loud crack of wood and steel hitting flesh and bone. The sound was quickly replaced by loud shouts and gunfire and screams in another tongue; unmistakable if unknown as a retreat signaled the departure of the Chinese soldiers.

“Jacobsen? Hey? Joey? I made it,’ the voice called from the foxhole only yards away. The young man was lifted to his feet from the grime and mud by one of the men responsible for his deliverance. He rushed over to the other foxhole in excited glee only to find his best buddy lying face up with sightless eyes. He knelt down, but there wasn’t any urgency in his gesture as he cradled the boy in his arms.

“Gee, sorry, kid,” the older man said as he put his hand on the young man’s shoulder.

“That’s….it’s okay, Sarge. I….” The tears began to spill; mostly from grief, but a great deal from relieved peace as he kissed his best friend’s forehead.

“I think he’s okay.”

“I’m sure he is, kid.” The man said, squeezing the young man’s shoulder once again even as his own tears spilled onto the cold ground. He looked down at the boy in the young man’s arms and it looked as if he was sleeping peacefully; a smile just barely noticeable beneath a smear of blood and dirt.

“I’m sure he is…..”

* * * * *
In celebration of Armistice/Remembrace Day/Veterans Day, November 11, 2014. For those who have served. In gratefulness for the sacrifice each has made and continue to make. And for those who have served and continue to serve in anonymity; in the open and hidden at the same time. Thank you!

Discuss

Sat Oct 25, 2014 at 10:32 PM PDT

Exactly...

by Andrea D

Exactly...
a wee bit of fluff for Halloween....or maybe more for those who know....

* * * * *

The boy sat on the wooden crate that he had sidled over to the shelves in the basement. Reaching in, he pulled out the records. The sleeves of the albums were worn from the friction of once-frequent playing, and the pictures seemed to be almost antiqued. He looked at one in particular and sighed. It still had the cellophane wrap; good for the sleeve itself, but the contraction of the plastic had probably warped the record inside.

“What’s new?” He sighed.

“Story of my life…Not!” For him, it felt like nothing was new at all. He would have scaled the offending album across the basement floor, but it was probably a treasure of his grandmother’s in some way, even if it didn’t look like it would ever play music again. Still? He noticed that the seal had been broken, so maybe there was hope. He stood up and walked over to the dusty stereo system that sat on a shelf next to the clothes dryer, dragging the crate along. Sitting down, he noticed the name on the cover.

“Linda Ronstadt…..?” He stared at the picture on the cover and found himself growing frustrated; a temptation that reached out of the past to grab his heart once again like every other picture or movie or DVD.

He shook his head; the wonder and the pain of shame and guilt flooded over him as he let his mind wander into places that both soothed and abraded his soul. Biting his lip, he choked back a sob. He had the whole afternoon to himself, and there was no need whatsoever to hide how he felt, but frequent habits insert themselves even where they’re not required, and he fought back shameful tears to keep from even the remote possibility of being discovered. He hit the power button on the old stereo and it turned on; the dim glow of a yellowish light peeked from behind a dusty clear cover for the radio tuner.

Setting aside the dark plastic cover, he checked the needle; a loud scratch blared from the speakers and he turned down the volume. Reaching in carefully, he pulled the black vinyl disc from the paper sleeve inside the album cover. As far as he could see, there were no scratches. His grandmother had talked about how most of her records had long lost any clarity from constant use years ago, and she had duplicated most of them on CD. He even got her an MP3 player to bring her into the twenty-first century as she had joked, and the records became just one more set in a group of collections that had lost their use.

The record slid down the spindle and plopped on the rubber turntable. He switched the speed to LP and turned it on, carefully placing the stylus on the record as it spun around lazily. The song started with a rich orchestral tone.

“What’s new…How is the world treating you?” the girl…woman actually seemed to be sad and frustrated as she sang; as if the one she sang to was no longer around…a lament. He sighed as he stared at the woman’s picture on the cover once again. He recognized her voice from an old kid’s DVD about a mouse and America. That was sweet and playful and fun. This song was almost too tearful to continue listening. He found himself looking at her; wondering what hurt her so much and why she was so sad.

“You haven’t changed a bit…handsome as ever I must admit…” Even as she sang, he found himself crying. Never one to identify with the music he and friends listened to, he felt awkward and even embarrassed. He lifted the stylus and was going to turn off the stereo but instead started the song once again.

“What’s new? How is the world treating you?”

At any given time, he would have felt that he had to identify with the man …the object of the woman’s affection. But he felt drawn instead to wonder what it was like for the singer; the woman who felt lonely and maybe a bit lost and hopeless – things that pulled at him on a daily basis. He stared at the picture.

“What’s new…?”

He repeated even as the song continued. The picture beckoned to him in a way. The woman wore a purplish strapless gown with a full skirt. Her arms were covered by elbow-length white gloves and while her hair was shorter than most women’s styles, it still looked pretty. He shook his head in anger. Once again he was tempted to cast the album aside, but this time it wasn’t just because it was his grandmother’s record. This time he held it carefully because the picture meant too much to him, even if it cause him so much hurt inside. The shame and embarrassment was almost too much to bear.

“One of my favorites,” he heard the voice call from behind. On the stairs leading up to the kitchen, his grandmother stood with her arms folded. Not the pose of impatience or demand, but rather the arms that embrace in a comfort of a fond memory. He put the album face down on the plastic cover that lay on the basement floor.

“I….”

“It’s okay…. I understand more than you know.” The woman was in her sixties; still very attractive if a wee bit rounder and grayer. She smiled a kind smile and stepped down the stairs and walked to him. He looked down at the album and looked back up at her and blinked back shameful tears.

“Come with me, honey.” She offered a hand and lifted him off the crate to his feet. He put his head down and stood motionless. A soft hand reached and lifted his chin slightly.

“I mean it, Billy…it’s okay.”

She reached down and grabbed the album cover and led him upstairs. A minute or so later they stood in her bedroom in front of the double doors of her closet. Sliding one door open, she pulled some of the clothes aside to reveal a garment bag that was pushed against the far wall. She reached in and pulled it out and walked to her bed; laying the bag down.

“I don’t understand, Nana.”

The boy shook his head in anxious shame, wondering how things fit together in the embarrassment of the moment. She smiled and pulled the zipper down; revealing a dress almost identical to the one in the picture on the cover she held, save for the soft blue green instead of the purple in the picture. She pulled out the gown and held it up to her body,

“Isn’t this the prettiest dress you’ve ever seen?”

She laughed softly; not a teasing laugh but the laugh between two who share something no other could know or understand. The boy felt his face grow red and hot, and tears…as shameful as any he had ever shed…fell from his face. His grandmother once again lifted his chin.

“Billy….it’s okay. I understand.”

She repeated herself and he shook his head; it wasn’t so much that he felt she couldn’t understand so much as it was that he felt he could never be understood.

“Hold this, okay?”

She handed him the gown as she walked over to her dresser. Her back was turned and he found himself bringing the gown up against his body; almost reflexive. He realized what he had done and he began to cry even harder. A moment later she stood next to him once again.

“Now none of that, sweetheart. Okay? Here, let me take that from you.”

He sighed through the tears; relieved that he wouldn’t have to hold the garment. But instead of empty hands, he found himself holding something…a few things in fact…soft and delicate things. He stared at the bundle in his hands until his grandmother touched his shoulder lightly. Guiding him toward her bathroom she kissed him lightly on the cheek.

“Go ahead. I’ll help you when you come out.”

She smiled and blinked back some tears of her own; a special moment that went beyond any of the stories he had ever read about boys like himself. She wasn’t crying because it was precious even if it was. She was crying because she remembered another moment just like this one years ago; a moment that was wrought with just as much shame and guilt and sadness. She touched his face softly, guiding him through the bathroom door.

“Go ahead…it’s okay,” she repeated the words and he felt her gentle final nudge before the door closed behind him.

“Nana….”

The boy stood before the mirror on one of the closet doors, staring at the image before him. Staring back was a girl of about thirteen. Her hair was short but pretty. She seemed to stand on a cloud instead of the kitten heels of white shoes. Her arms were covered with long white gloves, leaving her looking graceful. Her neck was almost swan-like; never as pretty as just then with a nice deep green jewel hanging from a teal choker.

She covered the bodice of the gown with her arms in modesty before she turned and looked at the woman next to her and tried without much success to keep from crying. But these tears, as awkward as they seemed, were good, as joy and acceptance replaced shame and guilt.

“I know how it feels to be alone and feeling like no one knows. But when I was your age I felt exactly the same way. That I’d never fit in and that somehow there was something wrong with me.”

“I don’t understand, Nana.” He blinked back more tears and cocked his head to the side ever so slightly.

“I mean, my sweet Billy, that when I was your age I was exactly like you.”

Her voice trailed off just a bit as she remembered a day long ago where her mother opened a closet door that led to a world of enchantment in a way that was filled with hope and acceptance. Billy looked at her and stared; his eyes darting back and forth between his body and hers.

“Ex….Exactly?”

He put his hand up to his mouth and bit the glove to stifle a sob; a gasp that dared not to believe but could not but hope he was right. Without a word, his grandmother kissed him on the forehead before grabbing both of his hands in hers. He stared into her eyes, and the glow quickly grew and lit up her face as she nodded and mouthed without sound at last,

“Yes, my sweet girl. Exactly!”

* * * * *

What's New
Words and music by
Johnny Burke and
Bob Haggert
as performed by
Miss Linda Rondstadt
http://www.youtube.com/...

Previously published....

Discuss

Sat Aug 30, 2014 at 11:00 PM PDT

If You Had Been There

by Andrea D

       
If You Had Been There...

Jesus Wept
The family room of the Infantino home, York, Pennsylvania

"Chris...please. You've got to tell your Mom... please."

"I...just can't... I just....no..." Chris turned away and put his head against the wall, trying hard not to cry. “She won’t understand…no…”

“If you won’t…then I will.” The girl sighed.

“NO! I’ll…I’ll go talk to Pastor Jerry…”

“Promise me…tomorrow?” The girl cried.

“Oh…okay.” Chris nodded. "Okay..."

Martha said, "Master, if you'd been here, my brother wouldn't have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you."
_____________

Grace Fellowship, York, Pennsylvania...a few days later...

“Chris Markham, God bless you! How in the world are you today?” Jerry stepped around from his desk and gave the boy a hug.

“I’ve…oh…I just stopped by to…what’s the schedule for the B worship team next month?”

“First and fourth Sunday…here, I printed up a schedule for the next three months,” Jerry said, handing the boy a list from a pile of papers on his desk.

“But that’s not what you’re here for. There’s more to you today than just drums and schedules, am I right?” The man was friendly but insistent.

“No…that’s it…Thanks.” Chris turned to leave and the boy felt a strong hand grip his arm.

“Is it that Thompson girl…” The way he said it made it sound almost dirty.

“Ruth…no…not her.” Chris felt his face grow hot.

“It’s gotta be something Chris. Come on…you can talk to me.”

“Oh….okay.” He had every intention of making something up as he went along; the shame of his… problem…was almost too much to bear, but sharing it would likely make things worse. Jerry’s welcoming smile seemed to disarm his defenses, despite Jerry’s remark.

“What’s going on? You look really upset.” Jerry was using all of the counseling skills he had developed as a youth pastor and as a student of counseling his Bible College; all four years.

“No…nothing, really...school.” He almost said ‘yeah.’

“You can’t fool me, Chris…” Chris wasn’t trying to fool anyone.

“I’m pretty good at guessing.” Jerry smiled, almost in congratulations to himself.

“No…really… it’s school. I’m…I’m having trouble with…buh…” He stammered.

“Bullies?” It certainly wasn’t bubonic plague or buffalos or bunsen burners, but Jerry felt sure he discerned what would have been obvious to everyone.

“Ye…Yes?” Chris shrugged his shoulders, almost as if he were asking Jerry to help him identify what he already knew. He continued,

“There…there are….guys…at school.” There were guys at school who bullied him, but that wasn’t what he wanted to say; what he really didn’t want to say, actually. He shrugged his shoulders again.

“Now…that’s not all, is it, Chris. You wouldn’t lie to me?”

He challenged the boy. The truth about shame and guilt doesn’t come out with accusations or confrontation, but that’s what Jerry was taught, so that’s what Jerry employed.

“Nnn…no.” He put his head down.

“Okay…tell me what’s bothering you!” A command instead of an invitation. Guilt can often get us to reveal instead of conceal; the shame of being a liar outweighed his fear, sadly, and Chris ‘opened up.’

“I’m…I can’t talk to my Mom about this and my Dad would kill me if he knew.” Chris was determined without any success at all to keep from crying.

“Listen, Chris…’A problem shared is a problem halved,’ right?” Jerry quoted an old saw feeling confident that he’d get to the heart of the matter. He ignored the needs of the heart of the boy in front of him, however.

“You’ll feel better if you tell me.” Jerry was confident even as the boy in front of him was doubtful beyond belief, but this was his pastor and he had to tell someone, didn’t he.

“I’m…you know the…the kind of boy….”

“Yes…” Jerry said as if he knew when he hadn’t any clue at all.

“Who…a boy who feels…no…” Chris caught himself. He didn’t just feel, he knew.
“Yes?”

“I’m…trans…” The boy hadn’t gotten the first syllable out of his mouth when Jerry’s expression changed.

“Son…you’ve got to repent. Leviticus is plain about men in women’s clothing.” He was abrupt but he tried to make his tone welcoming. The shock of what he thought he heard did nothing to assist his efforts, and he sounded just upset.

“N…no…pastor…no. it’s not that….no.” The boy, on the other hand, had tried to be conciliatory but his efforts failed and he sounded sad instead. His efforts weren’t helped at all as the tears flowed down his face.

“Okay…I’m sorry…stop crying…it’ll be alright…tell me what’s wrong.” He was sorry; it wouldn’t be alright, at least for a while; and nothing was wrong except for his inability to listen.

“I think…” Chris backed off, feeling less confident about knowing himself and allowing the moment to push him further into his shame.

“You think?” It sounded like, “Just what do you mean, you think?”

“I’m a transsexual.” Chris put his head down once again and began to weep. A moment later he felt a strong hand kneading his shoulder as he heard.

“Dear God, please help this boy with this problem. I trust you to heal him of this terrible thing. I know he wants to change, and we give you all the glory for the work you are about to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

He squeezed Chris’ shoulder once before walking back behind his desk and sitting down. A few moments later the boy raised his head, but only after wiping his face with his sleeve. He choked back a sob.

“Now you know we have a men's breakfast every first Saturday here, don’t you. I haven’t seen you at all since last fall, and I can bet that’s something that needs to happen.” He was summing up Chris’ pain with a recommendation. The boy put his head down once again.

“Now, now…you just listen to me, Chris. We’ll get to the root of this; there are lots of reasons for a man of Christ to be afflicted with such a dreadful problem…single mom…absent dad…you know…but you’re a good boy, and you’re just confused. The men’s accountability group meets on Tuesday evening; I expect opening up to other men in the church will be just the thing to help you. It’s going to be okay.”

There was that word again…’okay.’ It grated on the boy’s soul like a knife scraped across a cement sidewalk. He nodded and rose, nearly losing his balance in the process.

“Call me if you need me, okay?” Jerry smiled his welcoming smile once again as the boy walked slowly out the door.
______________

“You just need to pray more. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Advice!

“I’m sure spending time away from women all the time will be a big help. Too much estrogen in the house.” A joke?

“I felt that way once…” A lament?

“You been online…nothing but trouble on line.” An opinion?”

“It’s a demon…Now a Man of Christ can’t be possessed…just can’t happen…but oppressed… absolutely …you need deliverance, boy!” A sermon?
______________

The boy kept going to the groups; his heart grew brittle and the constant advice, jokes, opinions and sermons shattered it into tiny, nearly irretrievable pieces. The lament never once repeated as the man who wept in sympathy stopped coming. Chris heard that he’d left the church. But Chris kept at it. Slowly, his ‘demons’ departed and his confusion disappeared and his doubts dissipated as he became more like what he was ‘supposed’ to be as a Man of Christ. And the girl inside him died.

Others among them said, "Well, if he loved him so much, why didn't he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man."
_____________

Living Hope Fellowship, New Salem, Pennsylvania...a few years later...

“We love because he first loved us.” The woman said as she smiled a welcoming smile.
Chris’ wife had seen his despondency; the long arduous struggle with depression had affected his health. She brought him to church with her that Sunday. Something inside him felt odd; a sensation that described later as ‘reassembly.’ Celia looked over at him and saw that he was weeping, even though the pastor had only just begun to speak.

“Honey…what’s wrong?” Not wrong with him, but what was hurting him that was so wrong.

“Nothing…and everything.” He put his head down and began to weep once again. A moment later he felt a hand softly caressing the back of his neck. He looked up to see a woman…the woman who had been preaching just a moment before.

“Folks…this man is hurting; from what we don’t know, but the depth of his pain is piercing the heart of Christ like a sword. Let’s just stop for a while and pray for him. You folks here next to him. Reach out and touch him and let him know he’s loved, okay?” She smiled and knelt down and cupped his chin. Her own tears nearly matched that of him and Celia as she prayed.

“Dear Precious God…I don’t know why this man is hurt, but he is. I know you know and that you care and love him and want to see him whole and filled with your joy and peace. Touch his heart and lift his spirits and that of his dear wife here…your name…his name?”

“Celia…and Chris.” Celia said between sobs. She could see without seeing; true faith that his deliverance had finally come.

“Dear sweet Lord God, please touch Celia and Chris today. Let them know the reality of your love as you work through us. We recall the verse…that powerful and sad verse that tells us all we need to know about you." She touched his face with her hand.

Jesus Wept
“Dear ones…weep with this dear couple…we don’t know their hearts other than to know that they are very sad and tired and need refuge.” She leaned closer to Chris and spoke softly in his ear.

“Can you tell me what is hurting you, Chris?” Her voice…opened a door for him.

“I’m …I think…” He spoke haltingly between sobs…

“I’m…” He put his head down and sobbed. Celia leaned closer and caught the pastor’s eye. She turned and Celia mouthed the words,

“He…she’s transsexual…” It wasn’t a confession, so nothing was violated by her speaking on his behalf; for that is what it was…a kind word of information to a caring soul about the one she loved.

The pastor nodded and smiled. She began to pray, and something in Celia’s heart jumped for joy as the woman’s words were loud and clear and loving.

“May this dear soul be free from the expectations and demands of the past, and let this dear one know of your word….’fearfully and wonderfully made…” No more guilt and shame Lord but only joy and peace and forgiveness and comfort and acceptance, dear God. Touch the hearts of these two with your hand.” She looked around and saw that nearly every one of the thirty or so of the congregation was weeping. She smiled once again, lifted her hands in the air and spoke a loud amen.

Celia and Chris held back as the church emptied. He sat, exhausted, while Celia spoke with an elderly couple. Finally, they were the last ones in the church. The pastor didn’t wait for them to come to the door but walked instead to the middle of the sanctuary where Chris and Celia sat.

“Hello…I’m Jennie Davidovich…I’m so glad you came. I hope we didn’t make it too uncomfortable for you, but I felt you needed our help more than the talk I was planning on giving.” She smiled and looked up at the pulpit.

“That’s what’s so neat about God…he usually has plans that can sorta follow, but every once and a while he changes the script, you know? Anyway…again, I wanted to welcome you.” She paused as a man walked up the center aisle and grabbed her hand, kissing her on the cheek.

“Oh…hi, honey. How’d I do?”

“Great as always….Hi…I’m Greg, the pastor’s helpmeet!” He laughed softly and his eyes sparkled.

“We try not to stay stuck on structure; more like a skeleton that He hangs his skin on, you know?” Jennie said. We do have some groups you’re welcome to attend. Our Sunday service is smaller than most; many of our members go to other services closer to home, but we have a very large and growing group of home meetings, and we do have some support groups here at the building.

Celia smiled but Chris put his head down. He didn’t have to feign a headache; the crying was enough to give him near migraine. But he was almost glad for the pain since his lowered face hid the look of disappointment as he anticipated her next words.

“We do have a women’s meeting on Thursday’s but the luncheon isn’t restricted to just women and is open to all every other Saturday morning.” She smiled at Celia, who nodded politely. She welcomed the support but feared just as much as Chris what was going to be ‘offered’ to him.

“And Chris…we have a meeting…” She stopped suddenly as she saw him begin to shake slightly.

“I’m so sorry…this has been such a difficult morning for you. Honey, would you mind praying for Chris?”

“I’d be glad to.” He smiled once again and his eyes began to light up; as if this were the most important thing on earth. Chris sobbed harder, expecting the worst as the guilt and shame still held on like a thief.

“Dear God…you know this precious one’s heart. She had endured shame and scorn and God only knows what else. Her heart hasn’t been broken, but shattered. Take the pieces of her heart...” He paused as if he were searching for the words; waiting for the stage manager to mouth his next line.

Chris looked up, expecting to see Greg praying for Celia, but instead found the man gazing at him instead. The twinkle and light were still there, but were softened by tears that flowed off the man’s chin.

“Let her know you love her just as she is…that there may be some wrong things in her life like we all have, dear God, but that there’s nothing wrong with her. Wipe her tears, Lord. Let her know that you know her pain. Clear away the confusion and doubt and replace it with faith and clarity of mind. Let this precious couple know your love as you bring them closer together. Let …Celia.?” He paused to get her name right. She nodded.

“Let Celia know your peace and joy and have your mind as she supports….” He paused again.

“What was your name again?”

“Chris.” He said it softly, almost in embarrassment and apology. Greg continued his silence after Chris’ answer until he leaned closer.

“Would that be Christine?” The bard once said, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…or something like that. In this case he would be wrong. Names…especially at this moment…names mattered.

“Christina…,” Celia said, her own sobs set aside only for the moment. Greg smiled through his tears and continued.

“Dear God…what a lovely name…after you…” He laughed softly at the irony. Despised and rejected; altogether wonderful and sadly linked in commonality with Christ.

“May Christina’s suffering bring about the woman in Christ you have meant her to be. Let her know exactly what you have in store for her as she continues this journey with Celia. We thank you for these precious ones. In Jesus’ name…Amen.”

Almost like a baptism, Chris died and was buried as the saying goes, and Christina rose out of the waters of love and care and acceptance to the newness of life. Where there were almost entirely tears of sadness and shame, those tears were now mingled with tears of joy; the first time in twenty-seven years. Chris, or rather, Christina would celebrate her forty-third birthday in two weeks. The church would throw a party for her as a nice surprise.

Coincidentally, the couple would celebrate their anniversary; their nineteenth, which the church celebrated as well. Christina Marie and Cecelia Infantino-Markam finally were home.
______________

Based on John 11:1-44, "The Death Of Lazarus, The Message

Discuss

Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 02:35 PM PDT

Bimbo

by Andrea D

Bimbo

Northside Tavern, Atlanta, Georgia, late December….

Josh walked past the girl sitting and leaning against the bar and smirked. Even if he wasn't engaged, she didn't appeal to him. She looked cheap; not down and out cheap, but that apathetic place where nicer clothes and a makeover would have made all the difference had she actually cared. He glanced at his watch and smiled. Plenty of time to meet his fiancé at ten and still schmooze at the bar. He would play it cool and nonchalant; it didn't really matter since he wasn't starting something anyway.

"Excuse me? Do you have the time?" The girl spoke tentatively; like a come-on in practice. He noticed she had a watch adorning her right wrist. He shook his head and smiled; not warm and friendly, but the kind of smile that says, 'there you go, go away.'

"Six-twenty." He didn't notice that her watch was broken. But then he didn't really care.

"Thanks," she nodded before putting her head down slightly. That would have been enough except he had to go ahead with his assumptions. He was a flirt and nothing else, as if being mean-spirited would be an adequate compensation for not cheating. He nodded again with a teasing smile.

"I don't have to be anywhere until ten…." He grinned and she shook her head as her face glowed red even in the poorly lit tavern.

"I'm sorry. I'm with my sister." The look on her face showed a needless embarrassing shame; as if she was the one who was being forward.

"Yeah, okay…sure…." Josh pursed his lips and nodded slightly. His tone might as well have said, "YEAH, SURE…." The girl lowered her head slightly.

"Excuse me….I …" She turned and walked away quickly toward the ladies room in the hallway on the other end of the bar. He watched her go, paying close attention to her figure as her hips seemed intentionally provocative. A second later, an older woman, elegantly dressed, spoke to him.

"Excuse me, Josh, do you have the time?" He nodded and looked at his watch, failing to notice the dim glow growing brighter around the woman's face. She smiled and nodded.

"Yes, I do believe you do." At her words, things seemed to fade and sounds and shapes and colors and touch and smell all melded into a sensory miasma until he found himself looking in a mirror. The image that stared back at him looked vaguely familiar and the image over his shoulder looked very familiar.

"You about done? We have to get over to the clinic…." The girl over his shoulder spoke; the same girl he only a few minutes ago dismissed with a grin. She smiled at other image in the mirror. It was only then that he realized the image was a girl of about the same age; very close in size and height but for the harder features. The girl was a near-twin, but fraternal instead of identical. The idea seemed ironic for some reason that he couldn't identify.

"I know," he found himself saying. His voice seemed different; almost feminine, but not in good way, he thought.

"Jackie said that we can get flu shots if we get there by seven…something about a special open house?" He nodded and smiled weakly without understanding why before speaking again.

"Just let me make some repairs." He looked down at his left hand and discovered he was holding a lipstick; dark red. Even as the question of why he held a lipstick came to mind, he found himself applying it…to his lips.

"Okay. I don't know why you keep seeing that jerk. You know he's only using you," the girl said. She stepped closer and put her hand on his shoulder and peered at him in the mirror.

"We don't have to …. You're better than this, honey." She shook her head slightly; tears welled in her eyes.

"I…I know, Jessie…." Josh spoke in the odd, nearly feminine tones again. He looked at the reflection and saw that he had begun to cry.

"You know that Mommy is so sorry, right? That she didn't know?" The girl spoke gently; a soothing invitation of sorts. Josh nodded; curls bouncing around, revealing pretty onyx drop earrings. The feeling of the hair swishing past his ear gave him a start; almost electric.

"It's about six-thirty…." The girl said. Josh looked down, searching for his wrist watch. There was a bracelet on his left hand, which redirected his attention to his right wrist. Along with a small silver-like Casio watch he noticed dark lines that went up his wrist and underneath the sleeve of the ecru blouse he was wearing. The girl's eyes followed his gaze and she spoke.

"We're past that, sweetie, right? We're safe now and he can never, ever hurt us again." At the word, 'he,' Josh winced and felt a chill run up his back. He bit his lip and his nostrils flared as his eyes once again filled with tears.

"Tiff…? It's okay…." The girl stepped even closer and hugged him from behind. He felt the tears fall off her face onto and through the thin fabric of his blouse. She kissed him on the cheek and began to sob.

"We're okay…." She stammered between sobs. He turned and pulled her close and hugged her, mixing his sobs with hers.

"I'm sorry…I don't want to make you cry," the girl whispered haltingly. He found himself nodding; still weeping even as things began to fade once again..…

"Thanks for your time, Josh," he heard the elegant looking woman say; her hand touching his arm softly. She stared into his eyes, and something spoke wordlessly. He nodded without thought as he felt himself pivoting at the urge of the woman's hand. Standing at the other end of the bar were two women; nearly identical.

"It's all about perspective, don't you agree?" The older woman asked as she squeezed his wrist; sending a shock of numbness mixed with pain up his right wrist. He looked at his arm and then back at the two women standing closer. One was only a bit taller than the other, even though they looked to be nearly alike in every way except that the taller girl's neck was adorned with a thin black kerchief. She wore matching black earrings and her face seemed to be striking as opposed to how pretty her sister looked. Stronger if still similar features; both girls seemed a bit cheap; the dark eyeliner and poorly applied eye-shadow that speaks not of status so much as haste and economy. He shook his head, but not in usual dismissal, but in an odd alignment with the two young women who actually now appeared out of place in the dark shadows of the tavern. The two walked around him, but the older woman stepped forward, barring their path to the exit.

"It will be alright, dear child," she said, kissing the taller girl. Turning to the other girl, she gripped the girl's hands with hers."

"You're a blessing to her and she to you. It's going to be okay." With that, she stepped closer and repeated her hug, kissing the girl on both cheeks.

"Be well!"

With that the girls nodded politely if in a bit of confusion. Josh watched the two walk out of the tavern; his eyes following their every move. But instead of lust or judgment, he felt something he never really understood…. compassion. In a moment, both girls had walked through the door into the cool of the evening. He turned, feeling somehow that he needed to thank the older woman, but when he looked, she was nowhere to be found....

Discuss

Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 08:31 AM PDT

You Are You...

by Andrea D

You Are You...

East Aurora, New York…

Gary practically sprawled on the couch. His arms were folded in a ‘go ahead – entertain me’ hug and he bit his lip. He was bored for sure, but that wasn’t the worst part of his day.

“Now…Gar….honey? Go help her with her stuff, please?” Gina said to her oldest. The
boy shook his head in frustration before hopping off the couch. He walked slowly down the hall to the last bedroom and knocked on the door.

“Come in….” the girl’s voice trailed off. Gary opened the door and found his sister sitting on her bed, holding a pillow like a stuffed animal. She had been crying.”

“Mom says I gotta help you….” He said sharply. She turned and looked at him and saw that at least he was smiling for a change.

“That’s okay, Gar…I got everything.”

“Really…let me help,” the boy protested; his tone softened.

“I…I’m sorry about before. I didn’t mean to….”

“I know…but I cry all the time, Gar, so it’s no big deal.” She shrugged her shoulders.

“It’s just…I don’t get this ….I don’t understand, and I….”

“You miss him?” Hailey smiled and looked back at the bedroom. Sports posters that had adorned the walls seemed to vie for attention with new decorations and décor since Hailey had inherited the room.

“Yeah…I do…. It’s hard being the only boy in the house…. At least when he was around things were different.” Gary sighed. Hailey walked up to the boy and pulled him into a tentative hug.

“I know….but it’s gonna be okay. I promise.”

“I guess.” The boy blinked back tears. It was hard living in a family in the midst of so much change. A father unexpectedly leaving for deployment. Move to yet another town. And to have the whole family in upheaval over the departure of his brother in a way was too much for Gary. His best friend ever was gone and nothing made sense anymore. But it was about to make a whole lot of sense…
_____________

That afternoon...

A woman stood in the center of the large courtyard. To her back and circling around on both sides were friendly-looking cabins; large and inviting with bright colors on festive looking signs as well as the window and door trim. She grabbed a microphone and spoke.

“You’re welcome to participate in the events of the week,” she explained as the parents and siblings stood while the children were ushered quickly to the cabins surrounding the courtyard.

“Now that doesn’t mean anything other than to encourage your children and sibs, okay? This isn’t for everybody, and it’s okay if you’re here to support them. We have found a few willing siblings who jump in when they realized just what we do here and how much it means to the family, but for the most part it’s all about showing them how much you care for them and support them while they’re here and especially when they return home. “

“Do I have to …you know…?” A boy spoke haltingly while raising his hand; his face only a bit darker from embarrassment.

“No, honey, not at all. This is for them. If you wanted to, of course that would be all right. The fact that you’re here means a whole lot to them, but we only want to encourage each step as it comes to each of them and all of you as well. I’m so glad you came,” she said to the boy and to the families as she used her hand in a broad gesture of inclusion.
______________

A short while later...

Many of the families had gathered in front of the cabins as their children settled in for their time at the camp. Gary and Gina stood off to one side.

“Gary? Are you sure you don’t want to join in?” Gina patted him on the arm; not meaning to tease, but her words sent a shudder up his back nonetheless. He turned and frowned at her. At nearly fourteen, he felt completely out of place even if he was there to support Hailey. Gina shook her head in apology.

“I’m sorry. This must be hard for you. Let’s take a walk. Bonnie is with Hailey, and we need some Mom to son time, okay?”

“S…sure,” he nodded reluctantly. She grabbed his hand for a moment, but thought better of it. A few minutes later they were sitting at a picnic bench off to the back of the courtyard, away from the cabins and all the activity of the first day of camp.

“You don’t….it’s so ….” Gary began to speak, but the words seemed to get stuck. Gina patted him on the wrist and smiled.

“Go ahead…it’s okay…” She sighed, feeling helpless to encourage her son. Too many changes already and the biggest one seemed to loom large on the horizon. She smiled.

“Mom…this is so…it’s fucking crazy,” he looked over her shoulder at the bustle of activity behind her. She was tempted to say something about his language, but held back. Her smile gave him permission to continue.

“I miss Dad…. I miss my friends… our old house…and now? I miss my brother. Why can’t things be the way they used to be? What did I do to deserve this?” He turned his head and gazed at the place.

“It’s not about you, Gary. I’m sorry, but that’s just how things go sometimes….” She blew out a breath in frustration and continued.

“I’m still pissed off at your Father….but I knew going in that he was committed to a cause. That there would be times when it would just be me and you kids. And I love him, Gary. You know that, right.”

“Oh….yeah…. yes, Mom. I know. You just miss him. But that’s just it. It feels like you can miss him but I can’t miss my brother. Like somehow I did something wrong and he was taken away. Dad is coming home, but my brother is never coming back. And it fucking ….I’m sorry….It hurts so much, Mom….why did he have to go?” No explanation could ease any of the boy’s pain. Gina took a breath and tried anyway.

“I don’t know, honey. I’m still trying to figure it all out myself. All I know is that we’re still a family, and we all love each other, and that’s what we’re going to have to hold onto, okay? That’s the best I have, I’m sorry. I wish things were different, but we’ll get through this.” She blinked back tears as the boy rested his head on her arm and began to cry.

“Don’t tell Hailey about this, okay?” He looked up at her and she smiled.

“It’ll be our secret, honey. I promise.”
______________

A bit later...

Gary leaned against one of the light poles surrounding the courtyard. Gina had gone back to the car to retrieve her purse and he felt almost abandoned in a sea of people. He heard footsteps on the soft gravel of the path that encircled the courtyard and he turned to find his sister Bonnie standing with an excited look on her face.

“Gary? You wanna come see Hailey?” The girl tugged at his sleeve.

“Not right now, Bonnie. You and Mom can go…maybe in a little while.” The boy placed his hand on Bonnie’s back and ushered her toward Gina, who had just walked up.

“You’re going to have to come over sometime, Gar…. Don’t wait too long, okay? I know you don’t feel good about being here, but it’s going to work out. You’ll see.” Gina smiled once again before she and Bonnie walked over to the pavilion on the other side of the courtyard. Gary waved at them before turning back. He noticed a Coke machine by the office nearby and walked over. He fished in his pocket and came up with a few coins. Counting them, he realized he was fifty cents short.

“Oh fuck,” he punched the machine in frustration.

“I’ve got a dollar you can have,” a voice came from over his shoulder. He turned and came face to face with a girl. She smiled.

“Nah…that’s okay.” He protested, but the girl took the dollar bill and thrust it into his hand.

“Please? It’s okay. Go ahead.” He nodded reluctantly and fed the bill into the machine.
“Here?” She handed him another bill and smiled again.

“Sprite? All the way on the bottom?” He looked at the machine and found the large button. A moment later the two stood awkwardly, drinks in hand.

“My name is Dylan, what’s yours?” The girl held her hand out. He stared at it for a moment before taking her hand in his in greeting.

“Gary.” He smiled and a look of confusion crossed the girl’s face. She tilted her head and her eyes grew wide in recognition.

“Oh…I’m sorry. I thought you were one of us…” her face darkened.

“N…no…I’m ….my….” He stammered.

“What’s her name?”

“Her name? Oh…. Hailey.” In a moment his face had grown hot in embarrassment.

“I’m so ...so sorry….”

The girl bit her lip. She looked down at herself, as if taking inventory. She wore a yellow skirt and a white tank top under a green pullover. Her legs were adorned with white and red striped tights and she had on brown leather sandals. She looked like she would have fit in at Kohl’s or Marshall’s sales flyer photo shoot but for her very short if somewhat pixyish red hair. He followed her gaze as she eyed herself. Even if she was a bit younger than him, she was cute, and he found himself staring at her until she looked up in question.

“It’s okay….I don’t ….I’m here for Hailey…that’s all. Who are you here for?” He smiled nervously and she half-frowned.

“What? Oh……No….I’m so sorry,” Dylan shook her head and her eyes began to tear up. Gary looked at her askance, wanting to know what he had said to upset her. She put her head down even as she began to speak.

“I…I’m not here….for anybody…..” She gasped.

“I don’t… I….what do you mean?” He asked nervously, as if the answer he expected was the worst possible thing he could hear. She looked up at him and frowned before blurting out,

“I’m here for me….sorry….I gotta go….” She turned quickly and ran across the courtyard. He shook his head as he saw her disappear in the crowd by the cabins. The look of confusion on his face gave way to awkward insight as he realized that Dylan was just like Hailey. He shook his head and walked slowly toward the cabins, wondering what the rest of the day would reveal.
______________

“Thanks, Gar….” Hailey said as Gary sat on a chair in the large cabin. Gina was kneeling down, helping Bonnie, who had insisted on adorning Hailey’s toes with some dark pink polish.

“S’okay,” he said absent-mindedly. The day was already old and he was tired.

“Can we leave soon….The Bills are on at four and I wanted to catch at least some of the game, Mom.” Gina frowned at him until it dawned on her that the game wasn’t so much important as not being there with Hailey had become. And she understood or at least thought she did.

“It’s okay…they’re having a welcome dinner tonight, but we can just come back later. I know this has been a long day for everybody, and I’m sure Hailey wants to go catch up with some of her new friends.”

“At the word, ‘friends,’ Gary cringed. A short while ago he had seen Dylan and Hailey talking; a moment which was huge for Hailey but extremely uncomfortable for Gary. It was as if everything he ever feared was coming to pass in that single afternoon.

“Yeah….okay….” He nodded.

“Mommy….Hailey says I can eat dinner with her friends. Can I stay?” Bonnie tugged on Gina’s sleeve.

“Oh I don’t know honey… it’s supposed to be for her and her friends.” Gina shook her head.

“It’s okay, Mom…. I think Bonnie will fit in just fine. I’m glad to have a baby sister I can share with everybody.”

“I’m not a baby,” Bonnie protested. At nearly ten, she was hardly a baby, but Hailey understood what she meant.

“No…you’re not… you’re my kid sister. Is that okay with you?” Bonnie nodded at Hailey and turned to Gina.

“Well alright. Gary and I can catch supper at the diner up the road…. You guys have fun and we’ll be back later.” Gina kissed the top of Bonnie’s head and hugged Hailey.

“Back later, okay?” She said at last as the girls nodded enthusiastically.
______________

At the diner...

“I know this is hard, but you seem even more …. What’s bothering you, Gary?” Gina paused and poured gravy on her fries. Taking a sip of her Diet Pepsi, she eyed her son; looking for some way past his defenses. He shook his head silently and pushed some fries around on his plate in distraction.

“I saw you talking to one of the girls. She seems nice.” Gary looked up at her and shook his head in frustration.

“She’s not nice?”

“She’s not a she, Mom…. She’s just like everybody else here,” he snapped, looking away through the big window down the road to the camp.

“But that’s just it, Gary… Don’t you see?”

“Of course I can see, Mom… she’s ….just like Hailey….I mean…fuck….” His face grew red.

“So… because she’s just like your sister, that makes her something wrong?”

“Just like my sister? Mom? I don’t have a twin sister. Hailey’s my brother. Not a girl… a boy…” He hesitated and Gina jumped in, hoping she could manage to mend everything that was coming apart.

“I know this is hard, but it’s …. It’s who Hailey is…not what, Gary. We talked about this, and I thought you understood.”

“Understand, yes. Like it…fuck no! I want my brother back!” He pursed his lips in frustration, searching for the words that would convince his mother…or someone…anyone who could make things the way they were.

“Do you hate Hailey?”

“What? NO! I love him…he’s my brother.”

“She’s your sister, Gary. And deep down inside, you know that’s true.” Gina sighed; hoping that she could reach into her son’s heart and pull out every bit of kindness and caring she knew dwelt inside him.

“I…I know Mom….but it’s not like we had any ….I’m not ready for this….” He looked out the window again. She reached across the table and grabbed his hand softly.

“I wasn’t ready for it either. None of you came with instructions. It would be easy if you all were like your father… Straightforward….this is what you see…this is what you get. But we’re people, Gar…. We’re all different and all the same.”

“But….what about….”

“You, honey? What about you?”

“Yeah… Am I just like Hailey?”

“Well, you are twins. You’re about as kind and caring as she is….but no…you’re you…that’s what this place is all about. You are you…. Nobody else in the world is exactly like you. Or Hailey….or even that girl…” Gina paused, believing her son to be the fine young man she had raised. He smiled awkwardly.

“Yeah…her…” He bit his lip.

“She’s pretty. I saw you smiling.”

“Well yeah…until….”

“Until you knew that she wasn’t always like that?” Gina refused to give into his ignorance.

“She’s a boy, Mom. Like even her name… Dylan….”

“Well, at least you’re calling her ‘she,’ Gary. That’s a start.” Gina grinned.

“You know what I mean. I was looking at …at her and I …”

“Well, like I said, honey…she is pretty.”

“What does that make me, Mom….how do I put all of this….together?”

“That’s something I can’t answer other than to remind you how much you love your sister. That you are struggling and confused but every time you talk to Hailey you give her hope, because you believe she is who she says she is. Whatever else is going on, honey, you believe in her. And maybe that’s a start?”

“I feel so stupid…so fucking weird.” Gary blinked back embarrassed tears. But that was a beginning because he realized he cared that he cared. Dylan was more than just someone he met; she was another example of how things can be and how that isn’t so wrong after all.

“What should I say if I see her again, Mom? I mean…I’m a guy….”

“Well….” Gina wasn’t about to correct him; her own brother was gay, and Gary loved him because his uncle was who he was. But she also understood the awkward moments that stretched into days and weeks and months for a teenage boy. She nodded and smiled.

“I guess it’ll be okay, Gary, since you like girl and Dylan is a girl, right? Just like your sister?”

“Ye…yes?” He half-smiled; hoping he was passing the latest of life’s pop quizzes. Gin nodded and patted him on the hand.

“You’ll do just fine, and I know you’ll have just the right words for her when you see her, okay?”

“Oh….okay….”
______________

After the events of the evening...

“Hailey…got a minute? We’re gonna get going, but I need to tell you something, okay?”

Hailey stopped and smiled to the girls at the porch to the cabin. She turned sat down on the porch; patting the step. Gary walked over and sat down.

“I…. I just wanted to tell you that I’m so proud of you.” He smiled awkwardly. She looked at him and bit her lip.

“You…you’re proud….of me. I thought you hated me.”

“What…no….I…I’m so sorry. I…just didn’t know what to say or how to feel.”

“You’re my brother…what did you think you had to feel.” She turned and began to cry. He reached over and gently tugged her chin in his direction. She looked into his eyes and saw that he was crying…that he had been crying for some time. She tilted her head in anxious confusion.

“I miss…I missed my brother, Hail….like you went away….” He sighed and she went to turn her head once again.

“No…please….I’m sorry. I know now you never went away….you’ve been right here….and I should have said something sooner. I thought I’d lost you when you did all this….” He pointed to her. She shook her head.

“No…I mean it…I’m sorry. I didn’t understand….I know this is who you are. You’re still Hailey…you still love Mom and Dad and Bonnie and me…..” He bowed his head. It was her turn to coax as she lifted his face with both of her hands.

“I do love you….you’re my best friend, Gary…that will never change. Ever…and I love you.” She choked back a sob, but he looked at her with the kindest smile she had ever seen as he spoke gently.

“I…I love you, Hailey….and I’m so glad you’re my twin….” His voice trailed off and she sighed.

“Oh…okay….” She said. He smiled again and spoke.

“And I’m glad you’re my sister.” He pulled her close for an awkward hug and she did exactly what anyone would do in her situation; she burst into tears.

“I’m sorry….” He repeated and she shook her head even as she continued to cry.

“No, Gar… it’s okay….it’s just that you never once told me that you loved me and now you’re…. I’m your sister.” He patted her on the back; confused and feeling out of place until she kissed him on the cheek. Hailey the boy had never done that, but Hailey the girl kissed her brother and it was good.
______________

After lunch, the next day...

“We’ll be back to pick you up, hon…okay? I know you’re going to have a good time and
I’m so happy for you.” Gina said as she opened the car door. She placed her purse inside and stepped back and closer to Hailey. Giving her a hug, she smiled and nodded at Gary, who was standing on the passenger side.

“See you soon, honey.” Gina got in the car and nodded again in encouragement to Gary. He stepped around and met Hailey at the front of the car; giving her the first non-awkward hug in their short relationship as brother and sister.

“My game won’t be over until five, so I can’t come with Mom when she picks you up. But I’ll be waiting for you when you get home. Maybe you can tell me how things went, okay?”

It did get awkward. As much as he loved Hailey, learning about her first experiences with makeup and nail polish and best girlfriends was something he didn’t really look forward to, but they still had the Bills and the Sabres and everything else they would still share for a lifetime. She kissed him on his cheek and walked quickly to the cabin area, crying happy tears.

“Gary?” He turned around to find Dylan standing there; a nervous smile on her face. He noticed for the first time that she had freckles; something he never would have thought attractive, and yet she looked pretty. He smiled back.

“I just wanted to say a couple of things before you go, okay?” He cringed in
anticipation. She stepped closer. He could smell the scent of some girly perfume, and it added to the awkwardness of the moment.

“I heard you talking with your sister last night. I just wanted to tell you how proud of you I am…That was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.” Her nostrils flared and tears began to spill, making it even harder on the confused boy. He shook his head.

“I’m not brave….she’s just….she’s my sister.” He protested. She shook her head in return.

“My parents don’t even know I’m here. My Uncle Danny found out about this place. They think I’m in Grand Island at a Youth Retreat. My brothers won’t even talk to me and mom won’t stick up for me. I’m supposed to be getting help for my problem, you know?” Gary looked at her, continuing to be confused.

“You showed your sister what kind of man you are.” She smiled. It was hard for him to think of himself as a man, but he was every bit of what his Mom and Dad had hoped for.

“And….I’m …” Her face reddened. She wanted to speak but the words got stuck. Gary stepped closer. The moment called for a goodbye kiss on the cheek, but neither of them was ready for that. He nodded and stared at her right hand. She looked down and got his meaning, and offered it to him.

“I’m kinda glad I met you, too.” He would have added that he’d like to know her, but they weren’t ready for that either. He shook her hand and smiled.

“I gotta go. Maybe ….if my game gets rained out I can make it back here when Mom picks up Hailey.”

“Maybe….” She sighed.

As brave as Gary had been to that point, he got even braver. Sure, it was easy to show acceptance and tolerance when surrounded by people of like mind. But he also had to be brave for himself. He had never seen a girl quite like Dylan; no matter where or when or how or who any of the other girls were whom he had met.

And he took his next step into the rest of his life and the continuing journey into manhood. Pulling her closer, he hugged her and kissed her cheek. Maybe it would never be anything but a brother to sister kiss, but it was exactly what both of them needed. She pulled away gently and shook her head; disbelief mixed with sadness mixed with relief and finally mixed with joy as she smiled before walking slowly back up to the cabins.

Gary got into the car and Bonnie leaned closer from the back seat and laughed softly; not a tease, but a happy moment. And Gina nodded as she put the car in gear. As they drove down the driveway, she noticed Gary was still following Dylan’s walk up the path. She smiled and said with a soft, knowing laugh,

“That’s my boy!”
_______________

Inspired by ‘Camp You Are You,’ a four day summer camp for non-gender-conforming boys and their parents (the camp name is changed to insure anonymity)

Discuss

Sat May 24, 2014 at 06:01 AM PDT

Xie Xie...

by Andrea D

In loving memory of Iris Shun-Ru Chang  
1968 – 2004

Quzhuo, China… 1942…

Grace found herself lying in a meadow surrounded by willow trees by a stream. The grass beneath her was soft and welcoming; leaving her with warmth that arose from her breast and spread all through her body. It seemed like a dream but for the sensation of the breeze that moved past the purple catkins of the willows to billow the skirt of her blue dress, making the printed white butterflies seem to flutter their wings. And the sound of the water gently rushing over the rocks on the stream bed was soothing; the dream-like place seemed to chase away her anxious fears.

“Xie Xie!”

A voice came from behind and above. She looked back to see the upside-down image of a peasant couple. The husband looked concerned and the wife looked sad, almost belying her bright words. She thought ‘how odd’ that they would be thanking her; a stranger in their land. The man shook his head and frowned, but not at her. The wife knelt down beside her and cradled her head. Grace noticed only then that the woman was great with child.

“Wǒ zài zhèli!”

The wife took a cloth from her tunic and wiped Grace’s brow. Grace felt safe and as peaceful as at any single time in her life; those times were few and far between, leaving her thankful for the moment. She found herself envious of the woman and the child she carried; a longing that would never be fulfilled by the absence in her own body. Even in that moment of peace, she found herself weeping. The woman pulled her close and kissed her forehead in blessing. She sighed deeply as she placed her hand just beneath Grace’s neck.

“Zāo gāo,” the wife said as she removed her hand; it was wet and stained dark red. Grace looked up into the woman’s eyes and saw that she had begun to cry. Grace tried to speak, but began coughing. The woman wiped her brow again and spoke softly,

“Wǒ zài zhèli… “

The woman seemed to wish Grace’s tears away while shedding her own. Grace went to speak again, and felt a pain in her chest. The sound of the willows waving in the breeze gave way to loud angry foreign sounds; strange almost mechanical roars overhead, leaving Grace fearful.

“Hépíng…"

The woman began to sing; it seemed like a lullaby Grace had heard in a dream once; the woman's sweet voice and loving gaze more suited for a mother to her child. The short seconds of fear gave way almost immediately to peace as the woman cradled her gently. And her sight began to grow dim even as the darkness gave way to a bright light. She felt gentle hands lifting her and carrying her like a child as she heard the woman for the last time,

“Hépíng….”

The couple looked at the figure lying almost twisted on the soft grass. The silk of his parachute seemed to billow like a skirt. The husband knelt down and felt the neck of the young man. He pulled his hand away slowly, shaking his head sadly. He looked in the man’s pockets, but found no identification; much like the other two bodies they had found only minutes before. He looked almost too young, but then everyone was too young to fight and too old not to. The woman knelt down beside her husband and kissed the boy’s forehead in blessing, noting that the boy had the most peaceful eyes she had ever seen.

"Xie xie ni... Hépíng…"

In grateful memory of the sacrifice of the many who died on April 18, 1942 in the skies over Tokyo and in the grassy fields of China. And in memory of all the others who gave their lives in service to keep freedom alive around the world. My words pale in comparison to the prose of their lives; I can only say thank you.
Memorial Day, May 26 2014
Previously published
Big Closet/Topshelf May 2013
Discuss

Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 10:18 AM PDT

Blessed is She....

by Andrea D

http://images.dailykos.com/...

Blessed is She....

Beth'anya...the first of the week, 9 Nisan, 3793...

“Dovid…. Damn it, Rachael, where is that boy of yours?” Shimon put his hand to his face to wipe away the sweat on his forehead. He sighed deeply and looked once again around the house. His wife turned away to hide her shame and fear before answering in a lie.

“I don’t know, Shi, my darling husband.” The tale threatened to grown to great proportions until her husband cut her off.

“Don’t go there, Rachael. I may be your darling, but only when you want something from me. Where is the boy. I need help with that table that Reb wanted finished days ago. If he can’t be bothered to help me out there will be hell to pay. Your son is weak, but he’s all I have besides those girls of yours, and neither one can hold a hammer or a plane, so find Dovid and get him back here.” Rachael nodded nervously without a word.

Shimon was reasonable most of the time, but the need to please always took precedence when it came to Reb Natan; having a customer who was so important in the community had to help the business, even if it might mean….hiring someone else eventually. Truth be told, the boy was almost worthless when it came to building and fixing things. His own father was a gentle soul; a shepherd taken from his own flock too soon in life. Shimon could be a reasonable man, but had no patience for a boy who was the fruit of another; so to speak, even if he did say he loved Dovid. Rachael hurried from the house.

* * *

“Oh, Leah, you’re so precious!” The girl laughed and soon was joined in by her friends; not a malicious laugh, but an odd recognition of something only the four shared. Becca grabbed the girl by the hands and lifted her to her feet. Their noontime routine always seemed to culminate in some game that involved dancing and singing. The girl smiled at Becca and at her two sisters; both of whom giggled.

“Maybe she was thinking about Benny?” Haddasa laughed and her sister poked her in her arm sharply.

“If she is, she’ll have to fight me for him. I saw him first, and besides, I’m the oldest…I should marry Benyamin….and I am the prettiest as well, so there.” Ruth stuck her tongue out at the other three girls, but her meanness was just an act. She loved both her sisters and her friend Becca, but what girl could ever pass up an opportunity to tease? Leah’s face grew red and hot.

“I don’t….want to play anymore.” The girl looked around at the other three and blinked back shameful tears.

“Abba Shimon will be looking for me, and I’m probably in trouble anyway!” Leah put her head down and began to cry softly. A daily ritual that neither her sisters nor her best friend could prevent, since playtime at noon always ended with her leaving abruptly to return home just in time to be met by her stepfather. If she was lucky, a lecture and a swat on the backside were all she would find waiting for her. If Abba Shimon was angry, a beating might be the girl’s reward.

“I have to go!” Leah turned quickly and ran up the hill toward their home. Becca shook her head.

“It isn’t fair! Why???” She protested to no one and everyone; her friends looked up the hill toward their house and then at Becca. Haddasa, while the youngest of the family, was probably the strongest and certainly the most pragmatic. She shrugged her shoulders. Ruth, on the other hand, would cry at a moment’s notice, which she did just then. Becca hugged her tightly and kissed her best friend on the cheek.

“I don’t know. I wish the Lord would answer my prayers and yours.”

“I think he answered someone else’ prayers, Becca. That’s the problem.”

“What do you mean, Dassa?” The girl tilted her head in question. Haddasa smiled a half-smile and pointed up the hill toward their home.

“Maybe he knew….like the prophet? Maybe he knew before we were even born that Shimon needed a son to help him?” She shook her head and frowned a tearful frown in a rare show of emotion. Her eyes followed the path up the hill just in time to see her stepfather slap her brother Dovid and drag him rudely into the house

The following day...

“Rachael?" The voice called from the doorway. She looked up to see her cousin Miryam weeping.

“What's wrong? Dear Lord g_d...no....no.” Haddassa turned to find her mother hugging her Dodah Miryam. Dodh Eleazar must have died. She rushed to the women and pulled both into the house and to the table. Pouring water for them she had them sit on the bench, where they hugged and continued to weep.

“What's wrong?” Ruth cried out as she ran into the house. Seeing her mother and her aunt told her without a word. She burst into tears. Dodh Eleazar was a kind and gentle man like her father, his brother. She went to her mother and fell at her feet, holding onto her legs. Rachael stroked her hair. While a time might come for a more pronounced demonstration of grief, for the moment it was a private but still devestating loss for who had sustained too much sorrow already.

“Ima...what?” Ruth looked at her mother and over at her Aunt Miryam. Where could her Aunt Martha be?

“Shhhhhh....shhhhh.” Rachael patted the girl on the back; she continued to hold tight to her mother's legs as if she was aboard a ship tossed in a harsh and cruel sea of sadness. Haddassa leaned close to her sister and gave her a cup of water. The two were almost twins to their aunts in a way. Haddassa was the practical one; taking care of whatever needed to be done, just like Dodah Martha. Ruth, on the other hand, almost completely resembled her Dodah Miryam in looks and in personality. Contemplative; almost mystical at times. And of course there was Dovid.

The boy seemed to take after no one; as if there was no template. Other than temperament, he wasn't at all like his father; at least in stature, being shorter than even his younger sister. He would deny it if anyone but Haddassa or Ruth or Becca was around, but in his heart, he almost treasured the fact that he resembled his mother; something his sisters and his friend would tease or celebrate, depending upon their mood. On that day he most closely resembled his sister Ruth, but for the face turned away in shameful tears. If his father ....If Abba Shimon caught him crying, even in grief? Even in another painful loss? He shuddered to think of what the man would do.

“If you want something to cry about, boy, I can arrange that very easily. Is that what you want?”

Most of the time the question would be met with silence other than a stifled sob. Too often, the boy would give into the moment, and a beating would follow that promised to be worse than the last one he had received. He shuddered and stepped away from his mother and aunt and sisters; almost cowering in silence. Rachael looked at him and put her head down. The time had come and gone for any hope of protecting the boy; she had all she could handle just making sure her daughters were safe. She shook her head once before lowering her gaze to the floor in shame.

Dovid took a deep breath and stepped outside into the hot sun. He had determined his course of action which, once made, would be irrevocable. The boy felt he had no other choice.

Midweek...

The Passover eve was almost upon them, and it would be no celebration, even in observing Seder. That morning Dovid heard his stepfather calling for him. He had done everything Abba Shimon had requested, but nothing ever seemed to satisfy the man. Dovid waited until the man left the house; a walk to visit Reb Nathan. The boy watched until he was out of sight before stealing off down the hill to the outskirts of town; questions burned in his heart that only talking would satisfy; not with a teacher or a scribe, but with his father’s sisters. If he hurt this much over the loss of Dodh Eleazar, how must they feel, and could he get past yet another death?
The following day...the day before the Sabbath and Passover...

Dovid walked the long mile to his uncle's house. He ran when he saw his Dodah Miryam. He went to speak.

“Child? Shhhh….” Miryam put her hand up to quiet the boy. She pointed to the small group of people standing in the courtyard. Dovid took especial notice to the lean looking man speaking to the rest. His face was kind; a look of care that the boy had only seen once in his lifetime; his father Aharon's smile and easy demeanor seemed to be almost mirrored in the man. Dovid stepped closer, and one of the young men with him put his hand out in caution.

“Jakob…let the boy come.” Another put his hand on the kind man’s arm.

“No…seriously, Yonni….it’s alright. Let him come, alright?” The older man nodded and ushered the boy closer.

“Are…are you a Reb….???” The boy spoke haltingly.

“He wants to know if Jehoshua is a Reb,” Shimon laughed. Endru looked at his brother and shook his head.

“Shi…don’t tease. He may even be part of the family.” He pointed to the two women standing at the archway into the courtyard. Jehoshua nodded; having an almost foreknowledge about him.

“You must be Dovid. Your Aunt has told me all about you.” The boy blushed as his face threatened to grow hotter than it already had gotten only a few hours past sunrise. The man smiled at the boy and motioned to him to draw closer.

“I am very sorry about your Dodh Eleazar. You must have been close.”

“He was my….my father’s brother.” The man stooped down and looked the boy in the eyes; even in bowing the man seemed so much bigger than Dovid, but then he always felt small. And he saw something he had only seen once in his life; the day his father died. Dovid blinked back his own tears in surprise over the tears in the man’s eyes that seemed to recall the gentle spirit of his late father.

“I must pay my respects to your family. Come along.”

“Why….why didn’t you come? We sent word almost six days ago?” Martha spoke to the man as if she already knew him; a familiarity that showed more of a pleading sadness than a rebuke.

“If you had been here, my brother would still be alive.” Miryam said, her head down and shoulders shaking. A few of the neighbors stood and began wailing. Martha looked to the group of young men in appeal, and two of them, along with a smallish looking woman urged the people to be quiet and pointed toward the archway out.

“Please, they’ve been through enough. I know you mean well, but please leave for now?” Endru said softly; his kind smile disarming the disappointment and embarrassment of the moment. A few moments later the women were alone with the small group of friends and Dovid.

“Where is he?” Jehoshua asked, and his question received puzzled looks from everyone except for the boy, who tugged at Miryam’s sleeve.

“I think he means where Dodh Eleazar is buried.” A few minutes later after a walk up and down a small hill, they came to the tomb. A stone lay against the entrance.

“Remove the stone,” Jehoshua said. Martha’s face grew pale.

“He’s been buried nearly four days….you can’t expect….” Her voice trailed off as he half-smiled; his expression seemed to take the anger out of her voice, and she nodded as he used his hand to direct the young men. The woman of the small group, Cepha’s wife Dinah, stepped close and put her arm around Martha’s shoulder and squeezed.

“Watch and see the glory of the Lord!” The young men had moved the stone. He bowed his head and offered up a prayer.

“Eleazar…let’s show everyone just what the Lord can accomplish. Come out of the tomb!” Jehoshua spoke calmly, and a moment later at the entrance to the cave a man stood. He was wrapped loosely in burial strips.

“Remove his burial cloths and set him free.” He almost laughed as the men helped his friend out of the strips of cloth. By midmorning word had gotten around the village of what the small group had witnessed. Some felt Eleazar must have just been in a deep sleep, and some doubted he had ever been buried. And some …some attributed it to something or someone much greater than themselves. Dovid feared it had been all just made up or a mistake, but deep in his heart he felt that he finally might see the deliverance of the Almighty in his life…perhaps in all of their lives.

That evening...

Dovid opened the door slowly and stepped inside. Abba Shimon sat at the table. His mother and sisters were not there; he must have missed them after he left Eleazar's home.

“So, you were going to stay away all day? Was there something that made you think I wouldn’t notice you were gone?” Shimon shouted at the boy, threatening the boy with the back of his hand. The boy stood his ground; not in defiance, but not in surrender either. He just stood, awaiting the blow that would never come.

“I’ve grown tired of you! You’re not even worth the energy it takes for me to raise my hand,” he spat. The boy’s lip trembled as his stepfather turned his back.

“Perhaps I can have you apprentice with someone who doesn’t need a boy?” The words stung in so many ways; not because of the veracity of the statement, but that the man had intended for every word to hurt. But part of him…the deepest part that only a handful of souls knew and understood? That part almost treasured the insult, since it wasn’t an insult at all; at least in the truest sense.

“Get out of my sight.” It was clear the man had been drinking; a beating would follow swiftly if Dovid stood still. He backed away slowly as the man put his head down and wept drunken tears.

Yerushalá¡yim...the morning before Passover Eve...

A brief shower brought some relief to the heat, but also provided something that the child hadn’t expected. Passing down the narrow path over the back of the hill out of town, she noticed the large puddle that had formed in the rut. She looked down and saw someone she barely recognized but had known all her life. The girl in the reflection was small and plain looking; the middle child who had inherited her mother’s less than pretty looks. But looking just like her mother suited her just fine. She nodded at the girl staring at her from the puddle and both smiled.

A while later she stood in the alleyway of a row of houses; she had been there before, but not dressed as she was now. She knocked on the door and was greeted by a very tired but friendly looking woman; her mother's friend Dvora.

“I…I am lost. I was with my family and I got separated.” Leah looked with at the woman with big pleading eyes.

“You shouldn’t be alone, girl. You can stay the night and maybe your family will find you tomorrow. My nephew Endru and his brother Cephas and his wife and several of their friends are here for Seder. You may join us.” The woman beckoned the girl to sit at the table along with several young men and a young woman, along with her and her own daughter.

She paid little attention to the ceremony; her own heart was heavy with grief and her body weighed down with the aches and fatigue of the trip; not very far indeed, but even the shortest of trips can be tiring when made alone. She heard the man speak and looked up. A friendly and familiar face among vaguely familiar faces, he smiled warmly at her. A moment later a young man; thin and almost sickly, spoke.

“It’s not me.” His words almost became a question that her ‘friend’ addressed with a half-smile and a head shake. A moment later the man sitting next to the fellow who had asked the question got up suddenly and left the room. By now the girl had become sleepy. The daughter of the woman of the house noticed and motioned for her to join her. The two arose and walked into a room off to the side.

“Here, you can sleep, and in the morning I’ll help you find your family, if that’s alright with you?” Leah nodded and smiled sheepishly; she was surprised at the welcome woman and the daughter had extended to her.

“My name is Yehudit.” Leah went to speak and the girl raised her hand to stop her.

“Let me guess?” The girl giggled and put her hand to her chin.

“Is it…Mattiyahu? Or maybe Toviyah?” She giggled again and Leah put her hand to her mouth to stifle a gasp. Fear crossed her face and she began to tear up. She looked around, and the only door out of the room was blocked by the girl. She held her hand up, but instead of stopping her, the girl pointed to the door.

“Ima and I knew the second you came to our door. It’s alright. We won’t say anything. I just hope you will be …safe.” She pointed to a large bruise on Leah’s wrist. Leah looked into the girl’s eyes and saw the truth in her, and gave into the vulnerable moment and began to cry. The girl pulled her close and patted her on the back.

“I hope that the Lord will grant you your prayers….” She paused and looked at her. It was only then that she saw the girl’s left foot was turned severely inward. The girl smiled and spoke softly.

“And my prayers as well, yes?” She tilted her head as if to ask a question; the words unspoken but conveyed in the girl’s accepting smile.

“Dovid……” the boy wept in the girl’s arms.

“No…silly! I know that! I mean, what’s your name…YOUR name?” She practically shouted it. From behind the girl, over her left shoulder, a kind face smiled at the two of them; the most loving eyes either of them would ever see in any lifetime as he spoke gently.

“Her name is Leah.” The kind man said with a smile and a soft laugh before continuing.

“Good evening, children. Rest well.” He pivoted and walked out of the room, leaving the two alone.

The next day...

“Our guests departed suddenly in the night,” the woman said as the girls woke; the sun was already high in the sky.

“A night, I should add, where you talked it away until almost dawn?” She pointed to the door, as if they had just departed, seemingly upset, but with a smile that indicated she knew that girls might talk the night away as new friends. A moment later a girl’s voice came from outside along with an urgent knocking on the door.

“Ima Dvora…come quick…the teacher…they….” The girl stood nearly out of breath. Dvora shook her head.

“They said…they said…that they would kill him!!!” She pulled up her skirt and tied it off to her waist and ran quickly to the door, stopping only long enough to turn back to look at the girls; her eyes already filled with tears over the hopelessness she felt. And then she was gone out the door.

“Come, Leah…quickly…they…” Yehudit stood and stared at Leah, wondering why the girl wasn’t moving. She realized that the girl had no idea what she was talking about. She rushed to Leah’s side and pulled her hand gently.

“Jehoshua…the kind man…” She paused, fearing that even speaking the word would make it come to pass; she needn’t have worried over that. No matter what she said, good or bad, the man they knew as Jehoshua was even at that moment giving up his last breath. The sky darkened, plunging the house into a dim fearful pall. They felt the ground beneath them shake ever so slightly, and both girls fell together, holding onto each other for dear life.

“No….NO….NOO!’ The two almost wailed; their voices a sad duet of grief as they realized what had happened. And then…in just a few moments…it was over. The sun peered out from a fleeing cloud; almost fearful in the midst of its own return. No matter; the girls continued to weep, realizing at least for that moment…maybe their lifetimes in time, they had no hope for the healing they sought.

Two mornings later the girls had risen to help Dvora; she was almost beside herself with grief. The man had been a friend of her nephew….her friend; kind and true and caring; more than most for a widow with a deformed child. She continued to weep; her travail not the prolonged wailing of the mourners who almost performed that task, but as one that deeply felt the loss of the kindness and love she feared might never visit her door again. Yehudit walked to her mother and kissed her neck; a blessing of sorts in an attempt to show her mother that kindness and care did not cease at the death of their friend. A soft knock came to the door.

“Ima? Ima Dvora?” She looked to the door to find Dinah, her nephew’s wife, standing there.

“His…the teacher’s mother and a few of us are going to the tomb…to anoint his body.” Dinah blinked back tears, trying very hard without any success to keep from crying. Dvora shook her head no; it was just too hard to face. Dinah nodded silently and went off down the path. A moment later she realized she wasn’t alone. She turned to find Leah and Yehudit walking behind her. She nodded and smiled.

They arrived at the tomb in time to see four other women standing there. All were weeping softly as they stared at the tomb. The large stone had been rolled aside.

“Where have they taken him?” One of them asked. A voice came from behind, and they turned to find a man standing almost casually with a broad smile on his face; his expression belying the soberness of the moment.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here! He is risen.” The women hurried to the entrance to the tomb, looking in to see the burial cloths lying on a slab.

“Come…we’ve got to tell everyone.” The younger three of the four women shouted. They ran off, leaving Dinah and Yehudit and Leah behind along with the older woman; Mara, the mother of their friend Jehoshua. She looked almost serene.

“You’ll be alright, children,” she said to the girls, and Dinah nodded in agreement. Even though they held no understanding of what had taken place, their hearts seemed to almost grow big with peace…a peace that would transcend the coming days and weeks. They truly would be alright.

Beit Lechem...ten years later...

“Ima? Will you and Dodah Leah need anything before I go?” The little girl looked at her mother and smiled. The woman coming into the house just then nodded.

“Yes, Rachael. Just a little help for a moment or two? Dodah Ruth and Dodh Benyamin will be coming for dinner; She is almost at her time, but I think a few more days before your cousin arrives."

“Yes, I think you’re right, Yudi, my dear sister.” Leah laughed and nodded. The next generation was getting bigger every day. Ima herself would be in her fourth month as well; perhaps a boy, but no matter what, the family would be blessed with the knowledge of the love of their Lord, and Leah and Yudi would make sure that they knew just how much!

Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord. Psalm 118:26

*
Please note: All dates and days approximate due to variations in the historical narrative.

Source URL: http://bigclosetr.us/...

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