When we get back from our morning walk, Mami is in the kitchen making breakfast and starting the doughs for the day. Tati shakes the snow off his boots as he walks in. “Gut morgen,” he says gruffly as he pecks a kiss on Mami’s cheek. She pins her white- gold hair up and says, “Dubroho ranku. Liba, close the door quickly—you’re letting all the cold in.”
I let the hood of my coat drop down. “Where’s Laya?”
“Getting some eggs from the coop,” Mami sings. She and Laya love mornings, not like me, but I’d wake up early every morning if it meant I got time alone with Tati.
I shrug my coat off and hang it on a hook by the door as Mami pours tea at the table. “Nu? Come in, warm up,” she says to me.
I shake the chill off and start braiding my hair, which is the color of river rocks. Long and thick. I can’t pin it up at all. “Your hair is beautiful like moonstone, dochka,” Mami says. “Leave it down.”
“More like oil on fur,” I say, because it’s sleek and shiny and I never feel like I can tame it. It will never be white and light like hers and Laya’s.
“Do you want me to braid it for you?” Mami asks.
I shake my head.
“Come here, my zaftig one,” Tati says. “Your hair is fine; leave it be.”
I cringe: I don’t like it when he calls me plump, even though it’s a term of endearment, and anyway, I know what comes next. Laya walks in and he says, “Oh, the shayna meidel has decided to join us.” The pretty one. I concentrate on braiding my hair.
Laya grins. “Gut morgen. How was your walk?” She looks at me.
I shrug my shoulders and finish braiding my hair, then sit at the table and lift a cup of tea to my mouth. “Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech haolam, shehakol nih’ye bidvaro—Blessed are you, Lord our God, king of the universe, by whose word all things came to be.” I make sure to say every word of the blessing with meaning.
“Oymen!” Tati says with a smile.
Instead of trying to be something I will never be, I do everything I can to be a good Jew.