Shira is cleaning for Pesach. She is in the boys' room now,
and the mess overwhelms her. When are they going to clean
their own room? They're teenagers now, Shira reminds herself
with a sigh. Maybe she is isn't raising them right. She can
never seem to convince them to help around the house.
Opening the first drawer in the dresser, Shira begins to make
three different piles: "discard," "maybe discard," and
"keep." As always, Shira begins to philosophize as she
cleans. This is just like my life, she thinks. Some
parts I should really just throw out, some parts I'm not sure
and other parts I definitely want to keep.
A small picture interrupts Shira's thoughts. It is a crayoned
picture of a little boy crying. On the bottom, Binyamin has
scribbled his name and kita alef. Kita alef? Shira
fingers the yellow construction paper and tries to recall
this picture. Binyamin is fifteen now; it is hard to remember
kita alef. But then the memories come, one after the
Binyanim with his blond hair and mischievous grin. His
lopsided kipa and his endlessly ripping pants. He runs
in from cheder, throws down his bag and immediately
begins teasing the baby. Every day Shira dreads his
homecoming. She just can't control this child. The other
children wash their hands and sit down to lunch. No amount of
yelling or threats convince Binyamin to follow. And every day
another note from his Rebbe. Binyamin hit Daniel. Binyamin
didn't hand in his homework.
She and her husband run from one chinuch expert to
another. They daven. And Binyamin somehow keeps going
from one year to the next -- just inching by. Until this
year, that is. This year Binyamin starts hanging out with a
bad crowd. Tatte threatens him and punishes him. But all the
grounding in the world doesn't help. Their Rav tells them to
let him be and to just be positive towards him.
Positive? What can they say to him? And so, they ignore him,
pretending not to notice when he won't sit down to the
Shabbos table. Looking away when he sleeps through
minyan. Shira says Tehillim. She runs to the Kosel and
pleads: Help us! But Shira is sure now that she has
never seen this picture.
Binyamin must have drawn it and put it away himself. The
little boy is crying in the picture. He is all alone. It is a
stick figure, the messy drawing of a six- year-old, but it
makes Shira cry nonetheless. She puts her head down in her
arms and sobs. All that time, throughout all of Binyamin's
antics, she has never felt his pain.
It is Erev Pesach. Shira spreads the snow white tablecloth
onto the dining room table and begins to take out the crystal
wine glasses. Ever since she has found Binyamin's picture,
she finds herself remembering him as a baby. Her firstborn.
The colicky baby.
Night after night she rocks him to sleep. She is so tired.
And then Binyamin as a toddler. Already a big brother. He's
the one who has to grow up faster than the rest.
Shira sets a place for Binyamin next to Tatte. She is not
expecting him to come to the seder but she sets a
Soon Shira is caught in the Yom Tov rush. Setting out the
dresses and the suits. Nursing the baby. Putting together the
seder plate. Finally, it is time to light candles.
Shira thinks of the little yellow picture as she
davens. How could she have missed his pain? She is
always so stuck in her own world, she realizes. She has been
so angry at Binyamin for causing her so much trouble that she
hasn't been able to love him. She hasn't been able to love
"Hashem!" she cries softly, "take me out of my
Mitzrayim, my narrowness. Help me love Binyamin! Help
me forget myself!"
Tatte comes home from shul and arranges the Haggadas.
The family gathers around the elegant table. Tatte lifts the
polished Kiddush cup. Suddenly they hear footsteps in the
kitchen. And Binyamin walks up to the table and stands in his
place beside his father.
He doesn't have on a hat or jacket. But he's here! He's
Shira rejoices inwardly. Tatte glances at him and then at
her. She smiles at him and then at Binyamin. Shira sees tears
in her husband's eyes as he begins to make Kiddush.
After the seder, Binyamin heads towards his room.
Shira follows him.
"Binyamin. Wait," she calls. "I want to tell you
"What?" Binyamin asks, glancing away.
"I love you," Shira says. She realizes it is hard for her to
say, so she says it again. "I love you, Binyamin."
Binyamin looks at her with startled eyes. He turns his face
away so that Shira will not see his tears.
"I love you and I'm here for you," Shira tells him. Binyamin
mumbles a quick `thank you' and continues on to his room.
Shira walks into her bedroom and picks up the worn-out
picture lying on her dresser. She stares at it in the
moonlight. "Hashem, take away his pain," she whispers. Not
my pain. His pain. "Please take care of Binyamin."
Years later, Shira stands proudly beneath Binyamin's
chupa. She looks at his beautiful, graceful
kalla. And then back again at her son, davening
with a kavana she has never seen before. She hopes
that he is praying for love and for understanding, for his