This story first appeared in the Fall 2007/5768 issue
By Nechama Basserabie, from Australia
Illustrated by Chana Goldberg, from MA
Amy Lewnik had a choice to make.
“I want you to be nice to Miss Rutelbaum,” Mom was saying as they drove through the bleak streets on a Tuesday afternoon. “You always seem to say something wrong or rude and we really want you to get a spot at Carmel’s high school.”
Amy rolled her eyes to the ceiling of the tiny silver station wagon. She was glad her best friend Sara decided to take a lift to the school with someone else.
As they drove into the stately establishment, Amy couldn’t contain her surprise. The school was set on a large stretch of land, with sprawling green lawns and huge sandstone buildings that cast luminous shadows over the playing fields. Amy saw the girls in their blue checked pinafores eating lunch while girls in navy sport uniforms played netball. She could see why her mother liked this place.
Amy and her mom were directed to the administration building, where Miss Rutelbaum’s office was situated. It was large and elegant, but very bare and not homey at all. Amy perched gingerly on the edge of an armchair. She felt very small and afraid in a place that was so big and scary.
She couldn’t help but be polite throughout the interview, even though she longed to loosen up and show the principal the other side of her. Her easy side, her fun side, her frivolous side. She was known among her friends to be wild.
“That went well,” Amy’s mom remarked in the car on the way home.
Amy said nothing. She hoped she wouldn’t be accepted at Carmel’s, and that she could go the local high school, St. Catherines, with all her friends. She came from an orthodox Jewish family, who observed Shabbat and dressed up on Purim and built a Succah every year, and her parents wanted her to go to Carmel’s to continue her Jewish education.
However, it was extremely hard to get a spot, and Amy’s only chance was her intelligence.
She had tried to reason with her parents but they wouldn’t listen.
“St. Catherine’s is terrible academically,” Amy’s mom said, trying to remain calm but failing mercilessly.
“You won’t mix with the right people,” her dad had added.
Amy remembered this with a sigh as the car pulled into the garage. She knew her family would want to know how the interview had gone, but she didn’t feel like talking, so she grabbed a snack from the pantry and escaped to her room.
A knock sounded at Amy’s door, and her mom walked in. Amy didn’t look up from her homework. She knew it wasn’t kibbud av v’aim, but her stomach was trampolining, and her head throbbed from all the pressure. She lowered her head a little and tried to concentrate on her work.
Amy stayed silent.
“The principal of St. Catherine’s is on the phone, and I’ve put her on hold. You’ve got a spot…I mean, it’s such a big school…”
Amy ignored her mom and fought to contain her excitement. Yes! She had a spot! Instead she pressed all her energy into her pen and scribbled down the answer to a history question.
The time had come. It was time for Amy to make her decision. She’d drawn up a chart about the good and bad points of each school. Her parents were letting her make the choice by herself, believing she was mature enough to make her own decisions.
Which she was…right?
Please Hashem, make this go smoothly.
Amy had decided on St. Catherine’s: before she’d even said it, it was clear which school she’d chosen. Amy could be very stubborn when she wanted to, and lately she hadn’t been the happiest.
She’d given it many hours of thought. She wanted to pretend, to look like she was mature. She didn’t want it to seem like she was making her decisions rashly. She knew she was just trying to reassure herself that she could do this properly.
“So?” Amy’s mom asked. Her voice sounded jittery, and she was fidgeting with her wedding ring.
Amy stared out the window at the sun sinking below the horizon. She thought about her friends. Then she thought about Shabbat candles. She thought of late-night parties every Saturday. She thought about wild friends and a real high school experience. Then she though of herself, and she saw all her gifts and blessings laid out on a tray in front of her, waiting to be used. They were so sparkly and shiny and looked so inviting that Amy had to say,
“Mom, Dad. I want to go to Carmel’s.”