This is what I was doing on September 11, 2001, and then what I'm doing right now. Just pulled out my copy of Yom Kippur a Go-Go, which is where this is taken from. So weird to have a record of my life, published and accessible to people who are not me. Some parts make me feel queasy in retrospect. This is one of my favorite stories I've ever done.
Somehow, we had all forgotten how Rabbi Mendy’s wife Tali was pregnant. Hugely pregnant. Nobody at the synagogue noticed, or realized, because pregnancy was a normal state for Hasidim, but when New York broke, so did she.
Mendy called me from the hospital. “Tali’s in the E.R.,” he said. “Everything’s fine, thank G-d, but Golda is here and she’s not used to hospitals and I was wondering if you were maybe free for the day?”
I told him I was on it.
We met at his house, a few blocks from the hospital. Golda was in her crib, snoring peacefully. Her little lungs shot out huge noisy breaths that filled the small room. Trickles of sunlight poked through the border of the curtains. Mendy left me with another apology—“I’m sorry we called you out of the house so close to Rosh HaShana”—and I was, like, Rabbi, don’t apologize, you do not choose when a baby is going to fall out, and I showed him to the door.
I heard a scuttle of footsteps, and walked through the kitchen to find Golda in her pajamas. She looked up at me, confused.
“Where Mommy?” she said.
I kneeled down to the level of her eyes. “She’s at the hospital with the baby, remember?”
“Baby?” she repeated.
“Baby,” I said.
The second time Golda asked, she didn’t wait for an answer. Her jaw dropped open and she started to scream.
One day I am going to make the worst father. Children crying make me crumble into helplessness. This feeling of utter sadness wells up and makes me all depressed and I want to concentrate on my own depressed state, not how to make them feel better.
I talked to her in that soft bedroom voice. I pleaded with her, showed her Mommy’s coat and the door. I dug through her toybox to find an ambulance or a hospital or something, but Golda was ultra-protective about her toys and when I touched them, she started screaming about that instead.
I shrugged. I got up, walked into the next room, which was Mendy’s office, and took out some computer paper and a set of Magic Markers. I threw them in a pile on the floor and started to draw.
Eventually Golda stopped hiding her toys under the sofa and waddled over to me. With her index finger in her mouth, she said, “What you doing?”
“I dunno,” I said, shading in the side of a woman’s dress.
She plopped down, grabbed a marker, and started to draw on the other half of the paper. She drew another woman holding a baby. “Is that Mommy too?” I asked.
Golda shook her head. “This is Golda,” she said. “I going to have a baby too.”
Now it's a bunch of years later. I'm headed into Times Square, which feels like an ominous thing to say, then walking to the Port Authority terminal to catch a bus. I'm going to see my sister and meet my niece for the first time. I don't know what it's going to be like, and the more I think about it, the more it's going to be about my memories and expectations, the What Should I Be Feeling parts of being a writer, and less about the actual experience of being there. So here's leaping headlong into life. I'll let you know how it goes.
And, because I'm not sure why, the Roots doing "Call Me Maybe."