Sharon felt nostalgic and bittersweet. The front lawn of her old high school was set up as it had been when she graduated. She hadn’t loved high school, where her imperfect figure prevented her from any real popularity. Though she was very outgoing, always volunteered to organize school functions and was even in charge of the yearbook, her photograph only appeared in it twice—once by her name and the other holding a havdalah candle after a Shabbaton, surrounded by her entire grade. Academically she had excelled enough to get into NYU and, while she liked a few of her teachers, she never embraced high school with any fondness. She took comfort in not having a list of unfulfilled dreams to feel bad about.
She had sat in the back with her mother and two little siblings who were absorbed in some Playmobil catalog and oblivious to the world. With wet eyes her mother sat on the edge of her chair, listening to every word of the speeches. She was decked out in one of her elaborate outfits, complete with her pearls and hoop earrings, her wig done up better than Sharon could do with her own hair. In photographs from when her parents had lived in Israel her mother had worn very simple clothing, only adopting a gaudier wardrobe on integrating to their community. Sharon, on the other hand, cared enough about this event to wash her face and brush her teeth.
“I always wondered why they made the final march of the graduates in the direction of the church across the street,” she noted to her mother when the head rabbi’s speech ended. Her mother didn’t answer, her gaze fixed on the dais. “How come some shul hasn’t bought that building already? How many Catholics still live in this neighborhood?”
“You’d be surprised,” her mother said. “I see them on Sunday mornings.”
“Where’s Abba?” her sister Tehilah asked without looking up from the catalog.
“I don’t know,” her mother answered. “Oh, doesn’t he look so handsome?”
Sharon turned to look at her brother sitting towards the front, all spiffed up and smiling brightly among his peers. Only she knew that the bags under his eyes were from last night’s trip to Montauk Point, but she granted him the last vestiges of his carefree adolescence and didn’t tattle. She would never forgive him for invading her turf when she was a few months shy of her seventh birthday, but on his graduation day she would let herself share vicariously in his special moment.
Her father still hadn’t arrived when they started distributing the diplomas. “Get the camcorder ready,” her mother ordered Sharon.
“Don’t know how to work it,” she replied.
“I do!” cried her little brother. “I know how!”
One look from their mother vetoed that option. “Turn it on and press the red button.”
Sharon acquiesced. “Fine, but don’t blame me if I end up recording the heads of the people in front of us.”
Eventually it ended. The little ones ran off to play with friends while Sharon’s mother tried to drag her over to give her brother the embarrassing hug and kiss in front of all his friends and teachers and rabbis. He was busy giving high-fives to all his hockey buddies as they walked over, so Sharon decided to spare herself from their glances and get lost in the crowd. To her left were her old teachers, none of the ones she particularly liked, so she went to the right to stand by a tree from where she could still be seen by her mother.
Suddenly, she felt a blow to her legs from a small boy not looking where he was running, who subsequently fell to the ground and was now crying. A woman came running over to him.
“I’m so sorry,” she seemed to be saying to Sharon, though she was looking down at the boy. She was dressed as if she just dropped in from a settlement outpost in Israel: flowing linen skirt, short-sleeved t-shirt over a long-sleeve t-shirt, elaborate head-covering and Naot clogs. She scooped up the child, raising her face to a position where Sharon immediately recognized her as one of her former classmates. “He’s still jet-lagged and isn’t sleeping well…”
“Anna!” Sharon exclaimed. The startled woman twitched and settled her eyes on Sharon.
“Sharon Gilboa! How are you?” They hugged, drawing a puzzled look from the young boy. “I didn’t recognize you. You look…wow, great!”
“Mi zot?” the boy asked his mother.
“This is a friend of Ima’s from school,” she told her son, displaying Sharon with a sweep of her hand.
Sharon smiled at the boy and asked him his name in Hebrew, but he buried his face in his mother’s neck.
“He’s having a tough time here,” Anna explained to Sharon as she began to rock him in her arms. “English…Hebrew…he doesn’t know where he is.”
“You’re living in Israel?” Sharon asked her, to which she nodded. “Where?”
“Elazar, you know, the Gush. I wanted to be in the Golan, but my husband works in Yerushalayim, so I’ll have to just hold onto my dreams.”
Sharon got distracted by the sight of an elderly woman kissing her blushing graduate granddaughter just behind Anna’s head. “I didn’t even know you were living there,” she said.
Anna became wispy-eyed. “Yeah, I guess I never left after seminary. I can’t believe that you aren’t in Israel…I mean, you’re Israeli.”
Sharon shrugged. “I guess I’m waiting for an Israeli guy to sweep me off my feet too.”
“You still live here…with your parents?” Anna asked.
“Oh no,” Sharon assured her, shaking her head violently. “I live in the city.”
“And what do you do?”
“Nothing too interesting,” she said, looking down and noticing dirt on her shoes. “A lot of little things. What did you come in for?”
She put down her son, who began running around her while holding her hands. “Well, besides for Jeremy’s graduation, my younger sister is getting married.”
Anna lifted a shoulder and nodded. “Yep.”
Sharon frowned. “How old is she, like, twenty?”
“She just turned twenty-one,” Anna corrected her before getting pulled down by the boy. “Ima’s talking with her friend now,” she reminded him as she straightened her back. “She’s marrying some yeshivish guy from Staten Island. Come,” she grabbed Sharon’s hand. “Come say hello. She’ll be so excited to see you.”
“What? She’s here?” Sharon gently tried to free herself, but Anna was already tugging her. “Doesn’t she have what to do before her wedding?”
“Come, Avishai!” Anna called over her shoulder, still holding Sharon’s hand. “I thought it would be good for her to get out, you know. This week is her Shabbat Kallah. You should come, if you’re in the area. It’ll be at my parents’ house.”
“Sounds great,” Sharon tried to say without committing. Avishai ran ahead and took his mother’s other hand, which made Sharon feel as if Anna was leading her and the boy off to bed. The three of them made their way through the crowd of graduates and their families posing for photos and sharing congratulatory hugs. Smack in the middle of the lawn they slowed down when they saw Dinah smiling brightly and talking enthusiastically to a red-haired woman facing away from them.
“Deen,” Anna called to her sister. “Guess who I ran into!”
Dinah turned her eyes toward Sharon and nodded slightly. “Hi,” she said with vague enthusiasm.
“Dinah, don’t you remember Sharon from the yearbook?”
The red-haired woman turned around and Sharon immediately detected the face. She couldn’t believe her eyes. “Erica Warren?”
Erica made a small curtsy. “Sharon!”
The two girls emitted high-toned gasps and hugged tightly. However uncool Sharon thought she had been in high school, she wasn’t as bad as Erica. Everyone thought she was weird—quoting Shakespeare, wearing mismatched clothing and covering her forever-frizzy mass of red hair with an awful French beret. She’d followed Sharon to the Village, scoring a coveted spot at the exclusive Fine Arts program at Cooper Union but transferring out halfway to learn fashion design in LA. Now she looked completely different: her red hair exploded in thick curls, her face tanned to a toasty glow, and her white linen outfit suggested that somewhere on the West Coast she took an interest in how she dressed.
“I thought I recognized that shade of red,” Sharon then said. “But wow…Erica! How long has it been?”
“Two years,” Erica remarked.
“So, what are you doing here? You came in for Michal’s graduation?”
“Yes, but I’m back.” She threw back her head in mock-disgust. “The Coast is not for me.”
“You know,” Sharon leaned in, as if to whisper, “I never really pictured you there. But I see that you did well. I love your…outfit.” She gave a nod of approval.
“Thanks,” Erica demurred, sighing. “Wow, Sharon.”
“Yeah, Sharon,” Anna interjected. “I’m glad you got to see Dinah before her wed-ding.”
“Me too!” Sharon gushed, turning to Dinah and reaching out to give her a light hug. “I’m so excited for you.”
“Thank you,” Dinah said politely, hugging back.
“I told Sharon about the Shabbat Kallah,” Anna told her sister.
“Great,” Dinah said through a smile before turning to chase after Avishai playfully.
“You’ll be around on Shabbat?” Erica asked Sharon. “You still live here…with your parents?”
Sharon looked back and forth at the two of them. “What, I look like I’ve never left home or something? No, I live uptown, on the West Side.”
“Really?” Erica asked. “How do you like it up there? I hear it’s a cool place to live.”
She rested her hands on her hips and glared at Erica. “How so?”
“You know,” she rolled her hand, “social life, plenty of singles.”
Sharon shrugged and made a face. “Sure, if you’re approaching forty and don’t plan on marrying.”
Erica frowned disappointedly. “Really?”
“No, I’m being cynical. Many different people live up there. You just have to find your niche.”
Sharon grimaced. “I know people. I wouldn’t say that I have a niche.”
“Oh.” Erica tossed her head and let her curls fall down to her shoulders. “Well, it would be nice to visit.”
“Sure,” Sharon said immediately. Then her eyes lit up. “Hey! Come for the aufruf. You remember Rob Heller? From the Caf?”
Erica had to think before she nodded. “I think so. When is it?”
“Next week, I believe. He’s having a whole thing Shabbat afternoon. You’ll be my guest and surprise everybody.”
“Great. So, I’ll call you before. You still have the same number?”
Sharon looked at her in disbelief. “You still have it?”
Erica rolled her eyes. “Yep, my parents left my room exactly as I left it. All my address books and calendars are still on my shelves.”
“Tell me about it,” Sharon agreed, reaching over and touching Erica’s shoulder. “Except that my little sister threw everything to the top of the closet.”
Erica laughed. “I took one look at my closet when I got back and felt like some Goth demon was screaming out at me.” She stretched out her arms like a mummy towards Sharon. “‘Why have you forsaken me!’?”
Sharon laughed so hard she was scared she would fall over. When she composed herself, she wiped away the tears from her eyes and breathed deeply. She looked up and saw her little brother not far away, inspecting people’s faces, probably looking for her.
“Well, I think I should get back to my brother. It’s his day.”
“Right, we too,” Anna then said. “It was great seeing you, Sharon. We’d love to see you on Shabbat.”
“Me too,” she said, pivoting her feet to turn away. “It was great seeing you, Anna. You too, Erica. Really, call me and come. You’ll see everybody.”
“Thanks,” Erica said. “It was great to see you again, Sharon.”
Sharon smiled. “Anna, tell Dinah mazal tov again for me.”
“Will do,” she said as she scanned around for her son. “Oh, Sharon, we’ll probably take in Shabbat early to get the kids to sleep,” Anna informed her. “So, don’t come too late.”
“Kids?” Sharon stood in place. “You have another?”
“Yeah, Talia is sleeping away in the stroller,” Anna pointed behind her. “She’s really adjusted to the time change very well—”
“That’s great, really great. Bye!” Sharon walked away quickly until she ran into her brother.
“Ima wants you,” he said simply.
“Lead the way,” she told him with a smile.
Are you from a settlement outpost? Does your little sister mess with your clothing? Do you make early Shabbos also to get the kids to bed earlier? Then empathize with your favorite characters over-and-over again when you order your own copy of Outdated, hardcover or e-book, from www.nathanwolff.com or Amazon TODAY!