The Shabbos Guest // I’m still not sure who was doing a favor for whom

As told to Fraydie Fuerst

“Welcome!” I greeted my Aunt Miriam as I ushered her inside and enveloped her in a warm hug. “I’m so happy you agreed to come to us for Shabbos.”

Aunt Miriam smiled. “Thanks for the invitation.”

“I was beginning to think we’d never have the pleasure of your company,” I said, picking up her small suitcase.

“Don’t take it personally,” she assured me as she followed me to the guest room. “You know I’m a homebody.”

“Well,” I replied as I opened the door and placed the suitcase on the floor. “We’re really glad you’re here.”

“Such a beautiful guest room,” Aunt Miriam said as she looked around. I’d spent considerable time getting it ready. “It looks fit for a king.”

“A queen,” I corrected her, giving her a little peck on the cheek.

“Thank you, dear. Now I think I’ll lie down a bit if you don’t mind.”

“Of course not.”

I closed the door quietly. So far so good. I wanted this Shabbos to go perfectly. Aunt Miriam is my mother’s sister. Five months before, she had lost her husband after a long battle with lung cancer. With only one child who lived overseas, my siblings and I had made it our mission to adopt her as our bubby. But it wasn’t easy. Aunt Miriam was rather reserved and didn’t accept invitations so readily. So when she finally agreed to come after months of trying I was thrilled, and hoped she’d enjoy every minute.

“Where’s Aunt Miriam?” my daughter Huvi asked as I walked into the kitchen.

“She’s taking a nap,” I explained as I did some last-minute puttering around.

“Did she bring us any presents?” Shifra, my three-year-old, asked hopefully.

“Shifra!” I warned her.

“But did she?” five-year-old Tuvia wanted to know.

“Kids,” I cautioned everyone, “I am expecting you to be on your best behavior. I don’t want anyone to bother her. She’s not used to being around little kids. Understood?”

“You mean—”

“Tuvia,” I warned. “Not a word about presents. Now go upstairs and get ready for Shabbos. You, too, Huvi. Shifra, you stay here and play. I don’t want you anywhere near the guest room.”

Shabbos was lovely. The meals went off without a hitch. The food was perfect. The children behaved beautifully and my husband’s zemiros had Aunt Miriam teary-eyed as she closed her eyes and quietly hummed along. Best of all, the house actually stayed clean. I knew that Aunt Miriam was a stickler for cleanliness. I was definitely the “hostess with the mostest.” And she was a gracious guest, thanking me for my delicious food and telling me how much she was enjoying herself.

“You know I don’t accept invitations that often,” Aunt Miriam said as we sipped tea together at shalosh seudos. “But I must admit that I’m having fun. Your children are adorable. Solitude can get a bit lonely. You and Shmuel really know how to make a guest feel at home.” This last sentence was said with a touch of sadness.

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