So instead, my mother decided to acquire stuff: Ornamental purses of different shapes and sizes; an assortment of extravagant fur hats, imported from her faraway birthplace; and numerous pairs of snakeskin shoes with high heels, which were ill suited to the desert sand—all of which caused a stir among the local people.
I can recall how, as a child, I got a rare permission from her to come into the inner part of her tent, behind the screen, and take a peak into her chest. It was overflowing with nose rings, bracelets, and flamboyant clothes. With hesitant fingers I touched one of her shirts, which at the time, was way too big for me.
“Here, Yankle, try it on,” she offered.
I did. I can still remember it: The trace of her jasmine perfume, the striped blue-on-white pattern of the weave, and the swooshing sound of the fabric as it flowed over my head and cascaded around my feet. I remember her laughter, her sudden embrace; and a heartbeat later—opening to me out of the shadow, right there behind her back—the watchful eyes of my twin brother Esav, who must have been standing there for a while, without making a sound.
How my mother sensed his presence—by what quirk of intuition she knew he had been studying us—I will never be able to guess. Perhaps she saw him in my eyes. She looked at me then with an intense look, and in a flash I learned that the unsaid can be more forceful than words. What passed between us at that moment I cannot begin to describe to you. I could hear her heart beat, and at the same instant, the same hammer was pounding in my chest.
With great calm, she gathered the garment from my hand. Then she folded it back into the chest with slow, measured movements, lowered the lid and with a clack, locked it.
“Go out, Esav, go play,” she said, without even bothering to turn her head, without even looking at him; and then she added softly, “You too, Yankle.”
In two shakes of a lamb’s tail we were outside. His hair was flowing, thick and wild, in the wind as he chased me, caught me, punched me down.
All the while, I knew: I would never forget her love, her letting me wear that unusually beautiful, striped shirt. And neither would he.
Yankle in A Favorite Son
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