KJ Hannah Greenberg
and Tracey Riehl

Tracey Riehl
Inspiration piece

Yoheved’s Celebration
By KJ Hannah Greenberg

She imagined giggling before tripping and falling face first in the sand. It would be a perfect birthday. Ima had promised to take her and two of her friends, for an entire day, to HaNifrad Beach, The Separate Beach, of Bat Yom, in honor of her turning twelve.

Shoshanah’s mother had been skeptical at first, asking why Yoheved’s Ima didn’t, instead, host challah baking, or a visit to the neighborhood senior center, for all of the girls in her class. In contrast, Shlomite’s mother asked why they were even bothering with a separate beach since both Shoshanah and Shlomite were still eleven. Shlomite was a second cousin and a dear friend, with a level of religiosity different from Yoheved’s.

To both of those mothers, Ima had answered that Yoheved’s choice for celebrating her new womanhood was perfect for her and as such was what they were going to do. Shoshanah and Shlomite could join the merriments if they cared to, and if not, other girls would be invited in their place.

In the end, both moms demurred. It was all that Shoshanah could do not to divulge the plan to any of the other members of her and Yoheved’s class. It was both wonderful and unfair, in her esteem, that she, alone, among all of those girls, was going on a trip to Bat Yam.

The week before her actual birthday, Yoheved and her mother sat sipping peppermint tea. Peppermint was Yoheved’s favorite. They sipped as they discussed the schedule for her celebration.

Everyone would pray the morning service at home and then Yoheved and her mother would pick up Shoshanah and Shlomite. Breakfast would be a picnic of eggs, fruit and cereal replete with apple juice and milk. Once the sun got too high for their fair skin, they would leave the beach to tour the Holocaust Museum and then the Sholem Asch Museum.

Begin City Park could be a grand place for a late lunch as long as they remembered to apply sunscreen. Ima promised to pack soda in addition to vegetables and sandwiches for that meal. Thereafter, they’d pray afternoon prayers in the women’s section of one of the local synagogues.

Later, around sunset, they’d return to the women’s beach, dip their toes in the ocean, take pictures of the colorful sky and sea, towel off, and return home. It would be a grand day!

Plans get ruined. The unexpected occurs. Promises get broken.

Shlomite came down with a fever the night before the trip. It was too high of a temperature for her to even ride in a car.

What’s more, Shoshanah had, at last, let her jaw wag. Word of Yoheved’s planned celebration reached the school principal, who, in turn, had called Yoheved and Shoshanah’s parents. Both families were forbidden to allow their daughters on such an outing, Yoheved’s mother as chaperone, notwithstanding.

Yoheved did not go to school the date of the trip. Instead, she stayed home and cried. She cried when she went to bed. In between, during the entire day, she cried, as well. Once, she got so frustrated that she kicked the door of her closet. The only result of that action was that she badly stubbed a toe. Neither she nor Ima said anything about the cancelled plans.

When Shoshanah became twelve, her entire class of girls gathered in her kitchen to bake challah. Shoshanah’s mother beamed. The school’s principal, likewise, beamed.

When it was Shlomite’s birthday, she, her extended family, including her second cousin Yoheved, and twenty or so of her “best friends” visited Shefayim Water Park. Ima bought Yoheved a “modesty” swim dress, that is, a waterproof outfit that covered Yoheved’s arms, knees, and clavicle, but that looked like a dress to the uninitiated. That once, Ima not only allowed, but actually insisted that, Yoheved also wear leggings.

Years passed. The week before Yoheved’s chuppah, Ima blindfolded her, telling her child only that they were going on a mother-daughter adventure. Yoheved obediently kept the scarf over her eyes while tapping, on the dashboard, to Udi Davidi.

When the pair reached the municipal parking lot closest to HaNifrad Beach, The Separate Beach, of Bat Yom, Ima gently removed the blindfold. As tears leaked out of each of her eyes, she reached to hug her daughter, telling her that she hadn’t forgotten the holiday that was supposed to have marked the advent of Yoheved’s womanhood. Ima added that she wanted to make sure to celebrate that passage before Yoheved’s forthcoming wedding.

So, the two of them ate a grand breakfast picnic of eggs, fruit and cereal replete with apple juice and milk. Once the sun got too high for their fair skin, they left the beach and toured both the Holocaust Museum and the Sholem Asch Museum.

Begin City Park was the perfect venue for their late lunch of sodas, vegetables, and sandwiches, especially after the remembered to apply sunscreen. Thereafter, they prayed afternoon prayers in the women’s section of a nearby synagogue.

Later, around sunset, Yoheved and Ima returned to the women’s beach, dipped their toes in the ocean, took pictures of the sky and sea, toweled off, and then returned home. It was a grand celebration.

Just before Shoshanah and Shlomite appeared to take Yoheved to the hall, where the wedding and the festive meal would take place, Ima handed her daughter a small envelope. Inside was the list of plans an eleven year-old had written up a decade earlier. Next to each item was a check mark and an imprint of one of Ima’s kisses.


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One Comment

  1. Posted June 7, 2016 at 8:48 pm | #

    The story brings tears to my eyes, and the image is worship at it’s most natural. Beautiful pairing!