Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Previously: Shevi’s mother finds out that she did not attend dance class.

* * * * *


After Mommy found out that I had ditched my dance class, she’d gone to her room and cried. I heard her yelling to Abba, “I’m trying so hard to help her and she just doesn’t want to be helped!” I stuck my fingers in my ears and buried my head in my own pillow, feeling slightly ill from the vast quantity of snacks and candy I had eaten that evening.

Somehow, I wasn’t so surprised when Abba came to my room a while later.

He sat at the edge of my bed again, the way he had on that first awful night when Mommy had declared that I needed help, before we went to Dr. Stern, before he told us I was overweight, before she registered me for the hateful dance class and before we started going to Mrs. Rich.

I didn’t know if Abba was planning to yell at me or tell me off for skipping the dance class that they had paid for, or if he was going to be as understanding as he was that night. In my head I davened that he would be gentle with me.

Hashem heard my tefillos. “Shevi,” Abba said softly, “this must be so hard for you.”

And even though I knew that Abba didn’t do so well with crying and emotional kids, I couldn’t help it, and I burst into tears. Again.

“Yes!” I gasped. “Yes! Dr. Stern told Mommy I have to do an exercise that I like!” I had already made grudging peace with the fact that I would need to get moving, to get them off my case. Apparently trekking back and forth to the kitchen to get another snack and then another didn’t qualify as exercising, and neither did turning the pages in a book as I stuffed cookies into my mouth. I had given it some thought, and decided (which I thought was particularly mature of me, if I do say so myself) that it wasn’t for Mommy or for Dr. Stern or even for Mrs. Rich. It was for me. Dr. Stern had spoken about diseases. I didn’t want to be sick. And… like Abba had said to me back then, I didn’t like to be teased, either. Or not fitting into clothing, or costumes for the production. Something had shifted in my mind, and I realized that… that… that as much as it hurt to admit it, Mommy was right. Something had to change.

“You don’t like dancing?” Abba asked quietly.

“No! No! No! I don’t like dancing!” The tears kept on coming as I pictured the baby elephant clumsily trying to do the steps as all the other tall, slim, willowy girls looked on in scorn.

“What kind of exercise do you enjoy?”

Dr. Stern had asked me that too. I didn’t enjoy exercising. Any form of it.

Abba seemed to read my mind. “Is there something that appeals to you a little more?”

I shook my head glumly as my crying slowed. Abba handed me a tissue and I blew my nose.

Abba patted my hand. “I’m here for you, Shevi.”

I sat straighter. His words gave me a new strength. I turned to him shyly. “Abba, do you think maybe we could do something together?”

Abba looked surprised, and then his eyebrows drew together as he thought about it. “You know, Shevi, that’s a good idea. I should probably exercise some, too.”

I thought of what Mrs. Rich had said. “Abba,” I said, “the dietician said that we don’t only have to change the way I eat, but the way the whole family eats.”

Abba looked surprised again. “How does she know what we eat?”

“Mommy had to fill in a form before we started,” I said importantly, feeling like Abba’s partner. “She said that based on the stuff Mommy wrote, the whole family needs to change the way they eat.”

“I hear.” Abba’s forehead was creased. “And…what did Mommy say?”

“She was surprised, too. Mrs. Rich said that next time we go, she’s going to talk to Mommy about meal-planning.” I remembered Mrs. Rich’s pursed lips as she listened to Mommy describe a typical supper at our house. It made me feel better that it wasn’t only my fault. It made me feel better that my family would have to change, too.

After all, it was hard to feel so alone.

Abba was talking again. “What kind of exercise can you think of that we can do together?”

I buried my forehead in my hands as I tried to think. “Biking?” I asked hesitantly.

Abba thought about that. My lungs filled with air when I saw how he was listening to me seriously and really thinking about my ideas.

“I don’t feel comfortable with us biking around town,” Abba finally said. “But,” he said quickly when he saw my face fall, “I’m going to look into getting a pair of stationary bikes. How does that sound, Shevi?”

To be continued…


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Chaya Rosen is the author of two poetry compilations, Streaming Light and Scattered Stones.