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cont. Family for a While
A POUNDING OF FEET, A CLATTERING OF SILVERWARE
and a general slamming of drawers, cupboards and chairs
woke Tallie the next morning. She opened one eye, peered
at her watch. Only 6:10. She groaned. The Kramers, it
seemed, were early risers.
Tallie squirreled down under her covers again, wishing
she could pull herself back into the warm cocoon of sleep,
but she could feel herself waking up more and more. She
didn't hear any rustling from the other side of the room;
either Gila had gotten up already while Tallie was still
sleeping, or she was also trying to grab a few more winks.
Tallie kept herself as still as possible. She wanted to
avoid seeing Gila as long as she could. Already she could
feel the butterflies in her stomach stirring again. School
today! She squirmed and tried to block out all thoughts
from her mind. Her sleep had been peaceful, but now the
butterflies continued, rising slowly one by one like bubbles
in a soda bottle, forcing their way up to her neck, where
they formed a lump in her throat the size of a golf ball. She
stretched lazily. She didn't really have to get up yet; she
could just relax, think about yesterday's events and plan
her strategy for today. She stifled a giggle as she remem-
bered how Gila had looked after her remark yesterday
about being weird. Talk about blushing! Gila had looked
like someone had injected red ink under her skin! The two
of them had avoided each other for the rest of the evening,
but Tallie was sure Gila was itching to get back on her good
A piercing shriek suddenly catapulted Tallie out of her
bed, and she almost collided with Gila who had jumped
out of her bed at the same moment.
"What was that?" Tallie asked, as the two of them
rushed to the top of the stairs.
Gila, clutching her blue bathrobe around her, peered
over the banisters. She sighed.
"Oh, it's just Chanan, having hysterics over something
again. Boy, what a way to wake up! I've still got goose
bumps." Gila extended her arm for Tallie's inspection.
"I'm sorry that you were woken up so abruptly." She
ventured a shy smile at Tallie. "I'm used to it. I don't know
why it gave me such a shock, but for you it must have been
Tallie's heart was still pounding like a sledge hammer.
"What is he screaming about, though? He sounds like the
world is coming to an end!"
She followed Gila back into the bedroom.
"He has these fits whenever things don't go his way,"
Gila explained. "That's the way some kids are at that age."
Oh really? Tallie thought angrily. Kids that age are
sometimes like that? One thing was sure. If Eitan ever tried
a trick like that he would be out on his ear so fast he
wouldn't know what hit him. No, not some kids. Only lucky
kids who didn't have to worry about being thrown out of
a foster home. Gila gathered her clothes on the chair and
headed for the bathroom.
"Actually, it's good that he woke us," she said. "We'd
better hurry or we'll be late for school." Gila pointed to a
pile of books on the desk. "I got all your school books for
you too. I... uh ... didn't get a chance to show you last
night." And with another shy smile she disappeared in the
direction of the bathroom.
Tallie's stomach churned again. School! She didn't feel
ready to face it yet. What are you so scared of? she told
herself off sternly. Why do you care what a bunch of silly
schoolgirls think of you? They are absolutely no business
of yours. You're here for your own reasons, and what they
think or don't think about you is not your concern. Tallie
pulled the shabby old blue looseleaf she had used last year
out of her suitcase and put it on the pile on the desk. She
had no intention of using the goody-goody, shiny new one
that Gila had set out for her. And if Gila was planning to
play the goodhearted Bais Yaakov girl role, taking the poor
foster child under her wing, she had another thought
coming. Tallie popped a piece of gum into her mouth
before going downstairs. Gum before breakfast might
look a little weird, but she was taking no chances of letting
Gila or anyone else know about her queasy stomach.
The scene in the kitchen seemed to have calmed down
somewhat by the time Tallie got downstairs. In fact, it
looked just like a picture book breakfast scene. The baby
was cheerfully scooping up Cheerios from his highchair
tray. Dena was sitting on one side of the table eating her
cereal, and Chanan and Dovie were on the other side.
Chanan didn't look too much the worse for wear after his
hysterics. His eyes were a little red and puffy, but he
Tallie said good morning and sat down to eat her cereal
when bedlam erupted again. A spoon whizzed right by
Tallie's ear, splattering milk and Rice Krispies all over the
"I don't want this kind of spoon!" Chanan screamed. "I
don't like this kind of spoon!" He had pushed back his
chair and was yelling so loud now that his cheeks were
almost the same color as his hair. His mouth was wide
open, giving everyone a perfect view of his half-eaten Rice
Krispies all the way down to his tonsils.
Tallie found herself gaping at him. Where did this kid
get his energy from? Just five minutes ago, he was sitting
docilely and eating his cereal, and now he was acting like
an angry bear. She wondered how he could have ever
reminded her of Eitan. Eitan would never act like this!
In an instant, Rabbi Kramer was on his feet and had
lifted Chanan beneath the arms. In one quick movement,
he swung him high up to the edge of the tall white cabinet.
Without raising his voice, he said, "Chanan, is there
something you don't like?"
"Yes!" Chanan howled. "I want a spoon like Dena has,
with curly lines on it!"
Rabbi Kramer nodded his head understandingly. "Okay,
Chanan. Now how do we expect you to ask for some-
Chanan closed his mouth with a snap, all the anger
gone. "Please may I have a curly spoon?" he asked in a quiet
voice which bore no resemblance to his previous roar.
"All right, Chanan." Rabbi Kramer said. "You may have
the spoon after you pick up your other spoon from the
floor, mop up the mess and apologize to Tallie for splatter-
"Okay," Chanan said, and he slithered down from his
Mrs. Kramer smiled at Tallie who was still staring open-
mouthed at the transformation Chanan had undergone as
he scurried cheerfully around the room with his sponge,
looking eminently proud of himself.
"I'm sorry," she apologized to Tallie. "This is the
second time you've been accosted in twenty-four hours,
isn't it?" She waited until Chanan was busy at the sink
before continuing. "I guess he is just overexcited about
having a new person in the house."
Tallie's glance followed Chanan. If that was the case, it
sure was a strange way to express excitement. It was
amazing how he seemed to switch his anger on and off like
a light bulb, almost as if he was acting a part. One thing was
for sure, he would never act like this if they weren't his real
Tallie had to admit she was impressed with the way
Rabbi Kramer had handled him. She made a mental note
that when she and Eitan finally had their own home, she'd
encourage him to try his own temper out from time to time
like a normal boy!
"Gila," Mrs. Kramer said when order and calm were
restored to the kitchen, and Chanan was peacefully eating
his cereal with his "curly" spoon. "I need a volunteer to
drop Chanan off at his school this morning. I have an
appointment with Yisrael at the doctor at nine o'clock, so
I won't be able to do it. Any volunteers?"
"Oh, Ima," Gila said in a voice that sounded unbearably
whiny. "You forgot. I've got patrol duty this whole month.
I really can't take him."
Mrs. Kramer poured herself a second cup of coffee.
"What about you, Tallie? Do you feel up to escort duty on
your first day of school? Chanan knows the way, and your
own school is right on the next block."
Here we go again! Tallie thought, with a bitter taste in
her mouth. The "extra hands syndrome." What made you
think this place would be any different? The lady obviously
needs help. She's got a houseful of kids, one especially wild
boy, and her oldest daughter is all involved with her goody-
goody school projects. Now you know what they need you
for. To lend a hand! Well, be careful, old girl. Give them
an inch, and they'll want a mile. Remember what hap-
pened at the Walkers, and the social worker specifically
told you that you don't have to help at all if you don't want
to, so you might as well make it clear from the start!
She was about to refuse when she realized that despite
the rubber ball mark on her arm and the splattered milk on
her shirt, she was secretly glad to have a chance to get to
know Chanan a little better. Also, Mrs. Kramer's friendly
smile and matter-of-fact attitude were making it hard to
just turn her down. Tallie shrugged her shoulders and was
about to agree when Gila chimed in again in her whining
"Oh, Ima! It's Tallie's first day in school, too. Why can't
Dena do it? I wanted to introduce Tallie to everyone
myself, and now she'll come in at a different time. And by
the way, Tallie, why didn't you take that new looseleaf I put
out for you instead of that scruffy old blue one you put on
the desk? I got the same one for myself as I got for you. I
thought it would be really cute if we had matching note-
Tallie almost choked on her Cheerios. Ugh! This was
even worse than she had thought! Cute! Who in the world
would want to be cute at their age! Well, too bad that Mrs.
Kramer would have to hear it, but she had better set Gila
straight right now!
"Thank you, Gila dear, for all your sweet intentions, but
my old loose leaf will do just fine, and I do not need your
introductions. I'll manage on my own." She turned from
Gila's stricken face to Mrs. Kramer. "I'll be glad to take
Chanan to school." Tallie pushed back her chair and stood
up. "I'll just go back up and get my stuff."
"One minute, Tallie. I made you some orange juice."
Dena had crept up so quietly, Tallie hadn't even noticed
her. Tallie looked down at her. She was standing proudly,
holding a glass of orange juice that she must have just
squeezed, with a shy smile on her face. Somehow, Tallie
couldn't bring herself to rebuff her.
That look reminded her so much of Eitan. And orange
juice of all things. That was what Eitan had made for Aunt
Melanie that day, too. It was after they had been living with
Aunt Melanie for about a year and a half, and Eitan had still
believed that if he tried hard enough, Melanie would be a
loving mother to them. He would tell Tallie at night before
they fell asleep, with the absolute conviction of a four-year-
old that it would just take time and Aunt Melanie would
love them too.
Tallie would listen helplessly and watch Eitan's deter-
mined attempts to find favor in Aunt Melanie's eyes. She
would watch Melanie's subtle, thin-lipped rebuffs, and
there was nothing she could do to shield Eitan from the
How could Eitan have known that the rejection didn't
start then. That his father and Melanie had never gotten
along, and that she had been furious when he had married
their mother, who had come along with a little girl of her
own, Tallie. How she must have hated them now, imposed
upon her like that. Tallie felt her resentment towards them
burning beneath that civil exterior. Of course she had
taken them in. Eitan was her brother's child, and she was
the type that would be afraid of what people would say if
she hadn't taken Tallie also, but Tallie was sure that she
hated every minute of it.
But Eitan remained convinced that they just had to try
hard enough and Aunt Melanie would love them. And
when Aunt Melanie went out one day, he decided on his
own to make some orange juice for a surprise, the way
Uncle David used to surprise their mother.
Tallie had been upstairs reading, but the sudden quiet
in the house after her aunt's return had made her rush
down to the kitchen. She found Eitan standing small and
defeated by the door of the dining room looking up at
Aunt Melanie, who, her rage barely suppressed, was telling
Eitan that he was never to fiddle around in her kitchen
again. From between clenched teeth she pointed out the
sticky marks on the counter and the table, and the orange
pulp all over the sink, and she warned him again to stay out
of her kitchen.
Something had died then in Eitan. Tallie was sure of it.
But at the time, there was nothing she could do but take
him by the hand back up to her room and cheer him up
with a puppet show.
Eitan had never tried to please Aunt Melanie again, and
soon after that, they had left to the Listmans and Eitan had
started having his nightmares.
Tallie turned to smile at Dena. "Thank you! How did
you know that I love orange juice?"
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Gila staring
at her, amazed at her sudden transformation. She was
probably wondering why she was talking so sweetly after
being rude only moments earlier. Well, she could just keep
ALLIE FELT ALMOST HAPPY AS SHE WALKED ALONG WITH
Chanan's pudgy little hand tucked in hers. She only wished
she could have exchanged it for Eitan's.
The wind was blowing crisply, ruffling the mutely
colored leaves across the sidewalk in waves, and Tallie
loved the crunchy sound they made under her feet. She
could tell that Chanan felt the same way by the way he
planted his feet firmly into each pile that the street cleaner
must have gathered that morning.
Tallie grinned to herself. All of Chanan's bravado
seemed to have left him as soon as the big front door of the
house closed behind them. Now he was walking along
beside her as meek as a mouse, peering at her shyly from
beneath his cowlick.
Well, she was sure he would warm up eventually and
she had no intention of hurrying up the process. After
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