After only two months, Helen decided to become an exotic dancer. An unexpected decision,even for her, the family agreed as they came together after Shacharit at Beth-El Reform. Well, that was the more generous interpretation. As usual strong opinions were aired to anyone who cared to listen or was cornered and rendered speechless by a mouthful of the cloying kiddush wine. The Lowensteins hunted in packs, relentlessly.
David secretly admired her chutzpah. He envied her – no, he was downright jealous. He had met all the family expectations, was a leading light in the community, ran a successful dental practice. He was a caricature of a typical Jew, he thought, complete with overbearing wife and two children who he worried that he secretly despised in an uncomfortably satisfying way. Helen – she’d flown the nest, crossed several state lines, disappeared for a while, and then surfaced in Berlin of all places, the root of their family’s near obliteration so many decades ago. All their news arrived via postcards (And oy, what was wrong with the internet? Even Great Aunt Hannah had a Facebook account!), cryptic, almost indecipherable, written in a mixture of English and increasing amounts of Yiddish that few could understand (who needs the language of the shtetl these days?).
She had started taking up a lot of bad habits and who knew when she’d last been to shul? She needed taking in hand was the almost universal opinion, a statement of fact led by David himself.
He who doth protest… Yes, he knew.
And so here he is, willing the plane to take off already, before his family realises that he too is quite literally, flying the nest like his sister. Sarah and the girls would wallow in the attention of the community for a while and then they’d find somebody else to fund their lifestyle. His parents wouldn’t need to sit at home on Shabbat for months, such would be the attention the story of their useless children would attract. ‘Oy, how can you bear it? My boys are so good, my daughter was made to be a mother, yada yada yada.’ ‘They’re meshuggeneh, so ungrateful’… Schadenfreude, everywhere.
He stroked the creased Berlin postcard once again, running his finger along the strikingly neatly written sentence – Helen was usually so messy. He repeated the Yiddish under his breath, the English running through his mind simultaneously. “The way you write with both your left and right hands”.
There was always a choice. Right hand – same old same old. Left hand – grab your life by the balls and never look back.
Now was his time. Maybe he’d take up exotic dancing.