A Call From The Other Side – Barbara Schilling Hurwitz

I love my early mornings, just before sunrise, when the birds are awakening and the house is still. This has always been my private time, ever since the children were young when I could revel in the scent of their peaceful breaths while savoring aloneness and tranquility, when I remained invisible to all requests.

Memories of yesteryear still tap me on the shoulder on days when Mom calls, just before the caffeine has fully circulated, and I’m not yet able to come up with alert sensitive responses to her critical questions and complaints about how I’m running the family now without her.

“So Babala, vos hees do?” She begins the same way every time, falling back into the Yiddish language of her childhood.

“Oh, Mom, what’s happening? We’re busy packing up Jake for his Birth Rite trip to Israel.

“What? Are you crazy, with what’s going on over there?”

“Oh, don’t worry. He’ll be fine. Remember when the other kids went. They had such a wonderful time and…

“Remember? I’d like to forget. It ate up my kishkas while they were there. You know my brother, Nathan, got malaria there and almost died. Oy, poo, poo, poo, you shouldn’t know from that.”

I can hear her spitting away the evil spirit. “Mom, that was when he was stationed in India during WWII.”

I’m so sorry I mentioned Israel at all. I hate aggravating her at this stage in her evolution. I thought when passing on to the next world, she’d rest in peace, but I see she still carries anticipated anxiety like an unbearable weight on her hunched back. So, I change the subject.

“We went shopping yesterday for Dina’s wedding dress.”

“Oy, my children are growing up!” I hear the mix of joy and sadness in her cracking voice.

“Well, Babalah, don’t forget to invite Allen’s children. The last affair they were so insulted you left them out.”

Ugh, I felt the stabbing pain in my kishkas now. I had no plans to invite her second husband’s grown children whom I hadn’t spoken with since they cleared out Mom’s jewelry from the nursing home while we were at the funeral.

“And remember don’t sit my nephews at the same table. Oy, why they don’t speak to each other is a shandah. Your aunt is turning over in her grave.”

Feeling her aggravation level rising again, I change the subject to food, and feel the warmth of her smile when I tell her, “I made your mandel bread recipe yesterday…”

“Oh, how everyone loved my baking.” She drones on about her rugalach, strudel and lace cookies, and I inhale her joy, until something interrupts her. “Oy, I have a card game with the girls in a few minutes. Zie Guzzunt mine kind.”

And just like that, “Be well my child,” she’s gone… gone for now, but I know she’ll be back.


Barbara Schilling Hurwitz is a veteran teacher who has found a new voice through creative writing. Her fiction has been published in Flora Fiction Review, Washington Writer’s Publishing House Writes, Stone Soup, Trouvaille Review and several other publications. She won Runner-up in the Montgomery Magazine Fiction Contest in 2018 & 2019. She calls Chevy Chase, Maryland and NYC home.

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