Photo Credit: Jewish Press

So Hungry! I would say starving, but my mom says that Baruch Hashem we have no idea what it’s like to be starving and she doesn’t let us use that word. But… pretty close to starving – like – So So Hungry. So you go into the kitchen and your mom’s not around. Maybe she’s doing laundry, or mending, or with your younger siblings somewhere. You open the fridge. Then you slam it shut, ’cause there’s only vegetables and cooked food. You head to the pantry, and there, finally, you see some relief on the horizon. Like Oreos, or packaged rugelach, or lemon-flavored wafers. If you’re lucky, there may even be a package of spicy hot Doritos.

Does that ever happen to you? ‘Cause it happens to me. Often. Like, almost every single day.

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I was just ever-so-carefully spreading a thick layer of chunky peanut butter on a cracker when my mother walked into the kitchen that fateful Wednesday afternoon.

“Shevi? What are you doing?”

I looked up. “Hi, Ma. I’m making myself a snack. I’m so hungry.”

My mother lowered baby Gayil onto the floor. “But I made you a good lunch for school.”

I blinked and stared. What was Ma saying? “But, Ma,” I said incredulously, “That was hours ago!”

Ma frowned. Then she put her hands on her hips. “We’re having dinner in less than two hours. A delicious supper.”

What did that have to do with my snack? I had just come home from school after a long, horrible day, replete with a grueling two-period history class, a surprise Chumash quiz, and, as usual, some teasing from certain classmates. Honestly, all I wanted to do was munch my crackers and chunky peanut butter and drink my orange juice and be alone for a bit.

Ma pulled out the chair across from me and sat down. “Elisheva,” she said.

Oops, this wasn’t getting better. If whatever “this” was warranted using my full name, things were looking pretty bad.

“Elisheva, something has to change.”

A prickly, uncomfortable feeling was spreading through my chest and into my throat. The inside of my throat felt scratchy.

“You’re not at a healthy weight, Shevi. We have to do something about this.”

A massive, black, lead ball landed heavily in the pit of my stomach. And stayed there.

My bedroom was so dark I couldn’t see my furniture and was so stuffy I couldn’t breathe. From my stomach came painful groans and desperate pleas for some food. I rolled over on my bed and stared straight upwards to the black ceiling.

After Mommy had proclaimed that awful, hurtful, spiteful sentence: “You’re not at a healthy weight, Shevi. We have to do something about this,” I had bolted, ran to my room, and slammed my door. And ever since I had been curled up on my bed. Now, hours later, my room had darkened totally and my tears were dry. My stomach growled again, the smells from supper eaten by my family an hour ago were still tickling my nose. If I could trust my nose, Ma had made mashed potatoes and meatloaf, with that delicious glaze over the juicy meat with sauteed onions. What had been served for dessert? Perhaps Ma’s awesome, creamy, double-chocolate pie? Or maybe sticky cinnamon buns?

“The first thing you do every day when you come in from school is go straight to the pantry.”

I heard Mommy’s voice in my head. “We need to discuss this. Something has to change.”

I looked down at myself, and though I had thought my tears were all dried up, I felt my eyes filling and my nose itching again. The girls in class certainly seemed to agree something was terribly wrong with me. “Hey, fatso, want some potato chips?” And they would run away, screeching with laughter. Or they would taunt, “Shevi can handle it…she’s a biiiiiig girl!” Ha ha ha, indeed. Before I knew it, I was sobbing into my pillow again.

There was a gentle knock on my door. I knew it was Ma. She had tried before dinner to get me to come down, too. Not that I cared – let her feel bad. Let her know that she had destroyed her daughter’s life forever. I thought Ma loved me. I thought she loved me no matter what. Never did I dream that she only loved me if I looked trim and slim… if I looked like the rest of her daughters did. It was such a painful thought that it left me gasping for breath. Was it my fault I was the way I was?

The knock came again, firmer this time. “Shevi, it’s Abba. Can I come in?”

Surprise momentarily stopped my tears. Abba?

…to be continued

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