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I stayed at home this summer. Our babysitter/cleaning lady retired a little before the summer started and I tried to take over for her. Why, I asked myself, should someone not even related to us take care of my sister and my house when I am right there anyway? So, I decided I would try to replace her as well as I could.

Instead of going to camp? Boring, some might say. But I relished every bit of it. I held my baby sister as often as I could. I kissed her and hugged her and threw her up in the air. She became so close to me over the summer that she sometimes even went to me over my mother. I place a lot of emphasis on the ‘sometimes’ part though.

I learned that a person’s attitude really affects their experience. If my parents had forced me to babysit and tidy the house, I could imagine that I would have been extremely resentful. Some of my thoughts would have been: Am I just a cleaning lady to them? Can they really do this to me? But I want to have some fun, I don’t want to waste my summer! My time is valuable, don’t they realize that?

Instead, I realized that cleaning is not so bad, although it is a lot of work. I didn’t do nearly as much as our cleaning lady did, so she must really be amazing. I finally got to step into her shoes and feel how she probably felt sometimes. If only I had done so earlier, then I would have been able to empathize with her. Now I appreciate her so much more!

After 8 weeks, Karina came for her interview to work in our home – to clean the house and watch the kids when my parents aren’t around. I felt hurt at first, wondering, was I doing such a bad job that my parents needed to replace me? But then I remembered that my parents really did need her.

Because I wouldn’t be around soon. Really soon. Like, in a week soon. A wave of emotions crashed over me and I was left feeling shaken. But then I stood up straight, squaring my shoulders. I will be fine, I reassured myself, and worrying about it is pointless anyway. Right now, all I need to think about is packing, I told myself matter of factly. I had only one week left to finish packing up everything I would need for my first year of high school.

I am going to a high school in NY because there aren’t any high schools in my city that are right for me. Plus, I have two good friends from my home town who are going with me. We will be staying at the school’s dorm together, and I have a lot of family in NY so it’s almost impossible for it not to be alright. Right? Feelings of doubt and apprehensiveness crept into my mind, until they disappeared with a voice reminding me they were useless. I went to my room and started to pack.

Somehow, by the end of the week, everything was ready to go. I said my goodbyes to my siblings and my father drove me, my mother, and my baby sister to the airport. Inside, my mother reminded me to try to pay attention, because there will be times when I will need to travel alone. I couldn’t imagine myself traveling alone, but I tried to pay extra attention to the way we were navigating the airport. When we arrived, my aunt drove us to my grandparents’ house.

During the week my mother was with me in NY. We went shopping, got lost in the subway, visited relatives, and more. Whenever someone heard the name of the high school I was going to, they told me they only heard good things about it. That made me feel good about it.

One of the days, we went shopping in Boro Park. A pizza store was our lunch location, but we visited an ice cream store first, to… um… prep our appetites because it was scorching hot outside. On the wall, I noticed a poster that said Tracht Gut, Vet Zain Gut.”Think good, and it will be good.” I didn’t pay it much attention, since most of my attention was directed to my baby sister, who was trying to drink my mother’s milkshake and blowing bubbles through the straw. Later that evening, I found myself in an ice cream store yet again, sitting with Nechama Laber. She asked me how I felt about high school. I replied that I am both excited and nervous. Then she reassured me with,”Tracht gut vet zain gut, if you think good, it will be good.” My mother suddenly recalled the sign in the ice cream store we saw earlier that day. She relayed the story to Nechama and said something along the lines of: “What hashgacha protis! It must be a message for Chaya!”

Nechama asked me if I could be a blogger for her website. That sounded hard and I was a little hesitant, but I pushed aside my doubts and cautiously replied, “I could try to.” Nechama explained to me that if someone commits to something they are more likely to do it. So I agreed to do it. She made it official by giving me a JGU t-shirt. On the way home, my mother told me I should start writing right away. So, that very night I started on my first blog entry.

My mother and sister left NY a few days later. When my mother walked me to my cousin’s house we said our goodbyes. She wished me all the best in high school and told me I could call her anytime. All sorts of emotions and thoughts swirled around in my head, but somehow I managed to tell her how grateful I was to her for coming to help me settle in NY. We would see each other in a month, so it was like I was just going to camp – except that it’s not going to be camp.

I am excited and look forward to sharing my journey throughout the school year with all of the JGU readers!