As a change of pace, I wrote a short story with the hope that it might provide some insight as to how young children can assess ordinary situations in a way that may be surprising to grownups.
Little Dovi was scared, and even though it was morning, even though his room was lit up with bright sunshine streaming through his window, he would not come out from under his blanket where he lay huddled, fearfully clutching his very best teddy bear friend.
If he stayed in bed, he told himself, if he pretended to be asleep, then his mother would be safe. Bad things only happened when you were awake and aware of them – but if you were asleep, you couldn’t know about things and therefore – they didn’t happen! So, reasoned Dovi, he would stay in bed and keep his eyes shut until his Ema would softly call his name and give him his usual boker tov smile. His Ema would be in his room, safe and sound.
Dovi’s anxiety over his mother had begun the previous night, when a loud crash of thunder awoke him. He had jumped out of bed and had run to his parents’ room, the safest, “bestest” place in the whole world. Nothing could touch him there, not with Ema and Tati to cuddle with. But to his extreme horror, the room was empty! Ema and Tati were gone!
An ear-shattering clap of thunder abruptly changed his shock to terror and he had run screaming out of the room, nearly knocking down his Bubbi who had come out of the guest bedroom.
“Ema, I want Ema,” Dovi shouted frantically.
“Sha, sha, Dovela, “his grandmother crooned softly as she hugged him tightly. “Ema and Tati are in the hospital to get your new baby brother or sister. Isn’t that exciting? Ema will come home in a couple of days with a baby and won’t she be so glad that she has such a big boy at home to help her take care of it.”
Dovi had thought a minute, and had decided that this was something to be excited about – since he had been waiting and waiting and waiting for this to happen. He had been told over and over again that the baby was coming “soon”, but “soon” never seemed to come. And now finally, “soon” was here.
“Couldn’t Ema go for the baby in the morning,” he had asked as his Bubbi tucked him into his bed. “Most places are closed at night.”
Bubbi had smiled, telling him that like the store at the corner, hospitals were open all day and night.
Dovi had lain in bed, but could not fall asleep. As the raindrops drummed steadily on the window sill, he remembered a story old Mr. Bredin had told him how thirsty flowers would call out to Shomayim and the malachim, the angels – hearing their pleas for water would feel so sad and cry and their tears came down as rain.
Mr. Bredin always had a lap and a story for his little neighbor Dovi. And then one day, not so long ago, Mr. Bredin was gone. Dovi had been told that Mr. Bredin was taken to the hospital and from there, went to live with Hashem.
It was at that point the previous night that Dovi had bolted upright in his bed, his heart pounding in horror. Ema had also gone to the hospital, that’s what Bubbi had told him. Would she and the baby go to Hashem, like Mr. Bredin had – and never come home to him? Would he wake up only to be told that Ema wasn’t coming back?
A distraught Dovi thought and thought long and hard on how to keep his Ema. And then, the answer came to him! He would not get out of bed. if he “slept”, if he wasn’t “told” and thus didn’t “know” – then it didn’t happen. Hearing about something bad made it real – not knowing about it meant it didn’t happen.
Now it was morning and Dovi could hear Bubbi repeatedly calling him down to breakfast, but he stayed put. Minutes later he heard a car pull up in the driveway beneath his window. He parted the curtains and looked out. It was Tati! But Tati looked so tired and crumpled. And Ema wasn’t with him! Feeling sick, little Dovi dove under the covers. Within minutes he heard heavy footsteps on the stairs.
“I don’t want to know, I don’t want to know,” he sobbed covering his ears with his hands when his father pulled the covers off his face.
Dovi’s Tati was puzzled. Dovi had been so looking forward to having a sibling to play with. Why was he so upset? Could he be jealous or fearful that he would be displaced?
“Dovi,” he said gently trembling son, “you have a baby sister, but Ema and I love you just as much as we did before. We are so happy you are our yingele.”
For a moment, a distracted Dovi forgot his fears. A girl baby! Well, even girls were fun to play with. Chani next door was a girl and she liked digging for worms just as much as he did. He would show his sister how to wiggle like a worm so that they would think she was one of them and not be afraid when they played with them.
Dovi’s father’s words interrupted his musings. “Ema and the baby miss you so much.”
At his father’s words, Dovi burst into tears. “Ema is in the hospital, he sobbed. “Mr. Bredin also went to the hospital – and he went to Hashem and never came home, and now Ema won’t also,” Dovi wailed.
So that’s what this is all about, Dovi’s Tati thought as he hugged his sobbing son. “Look at me Dovi, I never lie to you. Ema is leaving the hospital tomorrow and will be coming home.”
“But Mr. Bredin didn’t,” Dovi shouted, his face awash in misery.
” Dovi, sometimes people don’t come home from the hospital, but most do, especially Emas having babies.”
Dovi quieted down, relief and growing joy replacing his anguish. Ema was going to come home – and so was his sister!
“I’m a big brother, I’m a big brother, wait till I tell Chani,” he shouted with glee as he flew out of the room, the delectable smell of his favorite pancakes teasing his nostrils. “But first I’ll eat, so I can be an even bigger big brother!