Although the following incident occurred many years ago, it is etched in my mind as if it happened yesterday.
When I was about eight years old, my family and I were living in an old walk-up tenement building in the East Bronx. My best friend was Chavi. She lived on the top floor, while we lived on a lower floor.
Chavi’s father was a hardworking man who owned a little grocery store. He rose early every morning and returned late each night.
It was obvious that he loved his growing family, but Chavi seemed to have a special place in his heart. She had been born a “blue baby,” diagnosed with a congenital heart condition. The outlook at that time was grim, but a new surgical procedure seemed promising. The frightened parents agreed to allow Chavi to undergo the surgery. When Chavi recovered, her family dubbed the day of the surgery, “Chavi’s second birthday.”
One morning, as her father was preparing his breakfast, Chavi awoke and came into the kitchen.
“Go back to bed, Chavalah. Ima will wake you when it is time for school,” her father said.
Chavi insisted that she was not tired and wanted to tell her father what she had been learning in Hebrew school. Her father agreed, and Chavi sat down at the kitchen table.
Suddenly, a very loud noise awakened the entire family and much of the building. The ceiling above Chavi’s bed had fallen, and would probably have killed her had she still been in bed.
That date became Chavi’s “third birthday.”