"In the Women's Balcony" - Lois Levin Roisman
The Shul, Brenham, Texas
That was the year my chin could finally
reach the railing of the women's balcony.
The Yom Kippur of the new blue dress,
the one that matched the bluebonnets.
Below me, the men huddled close, wrapped
in their white prayer shawls, shuttling left
to right, forward and back. They looked like
Bubbe's feather bed after I'd jumped in.
If I leaped over the rail, could float down
to their softness and Papa would turn just in time
to catch me. Zeide would be startled, but he'd
laugh and say Vos machstu, meshugee?
Then he'd let me pull his beard. I loved to pull
his mossy beard. Beside me at the rail, my Bubbe
on her wooden stool was making funny sounds
into her hankie, so I turned to stare. She was
talking to her ghosts again in those strange
syllables. This had happened many times, so
I knew how to make her better. Scrambling
into her soft lap, I smoothed her hairs where
they had come undone. She wrapped her
arms around me, her tears on my hair, dripping
to my new dress. We never spoke because
we didn't understand the other's words.
But I knew she loved my yellow curls, and I
loved the white ones hiding underneath
her bun. She rocked so softly and spoke again
to her ghosts. Then looking deep beyond my eyes,
Bubbe slowly wiped her tears from our faces. And
that was the moment Mamalosha appeared, looking
out at me from Bubbe's eyes. Shy at first, then
animated, she climbed out over the lids and leapt
into my life . . . . me in my bluebonnet dress, and my
chin that barely reached the women's railing.
Copyright © Lois Roisman, 2008.