Selection 4: Dangling Earrings // Aviva Frenkel

Reenie slid the bracelet under her sleeve when they left for the sheva brachos and hoped that Nosson wouldn’t notice. But he did.
“Why are you covering up your bracelet? Don’t you like it?” he asked as she buckled her seatbelt.
“Sure I do.” She feigned a smile and jiggled her hand as if tightening a lightbulb.
“Then what’s up? I looked at tons of them before buying it. I thought it was so you.”
“I know you meant well. I feel terrible saying this, but it’s kinda matronly. You know, old-ladyish. Especially on my small wrist.”
He blinked hard, and she looked away. Nosson pressed the button on the dashboard several times, allowing the music to drown out the awkward silence between them.
It was Nosson’s idea to put the bracelet in the safe deposit box at the bank. Until she grew into it, he said, and he never again mentioned what she dubbed “the big bangle theory” in her mind. But when he marked her 30th birthday with a smile and good wishes, neglecting to accompany them with a gift, Reenie knew that he remembered.
Gifts were far from her mind when they moved to a bigger house the following fall, but Nosson saw that she was drained, and so he surprised her with a gold pendant on a chain. Except that it wasn’t gold. Not 18K. Not 14K. Not even 10K. But it was delicate and thoughtful. She tried it on and never took it off. When she wore another necklace to match an outfit, she kept this one hidden underneath. Her husband noticed, and from then on she received only costume jewelry, as if real jewelry didn’t exist.
One time, Nosson visited several stores before Yom Tov and found a pair of earrings dotted with green Swarovski crystals, the same color as his wife’s eyes, but Reenie hated them. She thought they were too large for her narrow face, so she thanked him and stuffed them in her top drawer when he wasn’t looking. The costume jewelry stopped.
But it was Reenie herself who put an end to the Shabbos flowers. She preferred choosing her own, changing her color scheme every week. “Do you mind if I buy flowers myself?” she asked one Motzaei Shabbos as she replaced the water in the vase. “I like experimenting with different color combinations.”
“Sure, no problem,” he replied.
She enjoyed her flowers until intuiting, too late, that flowers from her husband, even artificially dyed purple carnations reeking of the gas station, were a blessing.
“I found this in the sefarim store,” he said on a random Tuesday afternoon as he presented her with a gift-wrapped box. “You wanted something for that empty wall.”
She did, but this was all wrong. The silver-framed metallic 3D rendering of the Kosel was the wrong size, the wrong theme, and the wrong color in the all-gold room.
“Silver? But everything else is gold.”
“Okay. I made sure that it was returnable. I’ll bring it back.”
Nosson returned it, and whenever Reenie sat on the couch, the bare wall reproached her for being ungracious toward her husband, urging her to simply thank him without expressing disapproval.
Reenie usually avoided clichés, but she had learned in life that it really is the thought that counts.
Birthdays, anniversaries, Yomim Tovim—they all came and went, but never with a gift. When Nosson bought a card—nothing else—for her 40th birthday, which she had been talking about for the whole past year, Reenie knew it was time to act.
The next day, with Nosson already davened, breakfasted and safely out the door, she ran to the silver store. “I’m looking for a becher,” she told the salesman.
“What price range?”
“Any. I need something magnificent with a big tray.”
She brought home two, so he could choose. If she was modeling gift-giving, she’d do it completely. Reenie waited until Nosson was drinking his postprandial tea.
“I bought you something for your birthday. Sorry it’s late.”
“Let’s see.” He rested his glass on the table and straightened his back.
“Open the boxes and pick one,” she encouraged him.
Nosson placed one becher in each hand, rotating his head and both bechers. “They are equally stunning. You choose. I love your taste.”
Ouch! That hurt.
Nosson was late for supper the following evening. Very late. My trick worked! She tried remembering which store stayed open past 7:00 p.m., but she was finding it hard to focus because of the diamond earrings she kept seeing in her mind’s eye.
“Sorry I’m late. Someone in the office needed help getting his son into yeshivah.”
Yeah, right. He probably stashed the jewelry in the glove compartment, waiting for the perfect moment. But the jewelry only surfaced in Reenie’s dreams.
On Friday night, she tried again, milking more out of that silver becher.
“Is it the right size?” she asked, pointing to the becher. “I wasn’t 100% sure it was the correct shiur.”
“It’s perfect. Thanks. ‘Shalom aleichem, malachei hashareis…’”
He’s clueless.
Reenie waited until after the chicken soup, his favorite course, to try her next tactic. “I forgot to tell you what Shimmy bought Devorah as a baby present.”
“I’m listening.”
“A lovely pair of earrings. He has exquisite taste. Especially since he’s so young and inexperienced. They are married less than a year.” She tucked her sheitel behind her ears and rubbed the hoops she’d inherited from her grandmother between her fingers.
“That’s great. It means that they can afford extras.”
Strike two.
When Nosson pulled out a grilled tuna wrap he’d bought from Pinny’s Pizza, she grabbed a napkin to catch the oil dripping from his fingers and wondered why he hadn’t ordered one for her. Reenie’s ears rattled as he peeled the parchment paper off the sandwich, crumbling it into a ball, but she sensed it was her fault.
“Thanks, but you forgot that I dislike roasted peppers.”
“Thanks, but I’m more in the mood for a salad.”
“Thanks, but I had my heart set on a bowl of soup.”
Had she said those things? She must have been clueless. He wanted to buy her presents and she wanted to receive them, so how had they ended up like this? All she could do was hope that it wasn’t too late.
A week before their wedding anniversary, Reenie tried something else. “Hey! I just looked at the calendar. Do you know that next Wednesday is our anniversary?”
“That’s nice.”
“Let’s celebrate!”
“Wanna go out to eat?”
“That sounds like fun. But even more fun is something, uh, tangible.”
“Like what?”
“Why don’t you decide? Surprise me.”
“Nah. My surprises flop.”
“This time it won’t. I promise.”
He removed his glasses and cleaned them with his shirttail. “Gotta get to work,” he said. “I’ll see you later.”
The phone rang at 9:45 on Monday morning. “Ma, it’s Devorah. Shimmy just left the house.” Reenie could hear the baby crying. “I have to talk fast. My earring broke and I don’t want Shimmy to find out. There’s no way I’m getting out today to bring it to the store to repair it. Could you please bring it in for me?”
“Sure. I’ll be there in an hour.”
Reenie brought the earring in to Glitz and Pearls. Chaya, her friend from shul who had worked there for years, buzzed her in.
“Hi, Reenie. Ohhh. I saw the name Klein but didn’t realize it was you. Let me get your box. I wasn’t here when your husband came in, but my boss thought that his idea to change the stones was brilliant. I hope you don’t mind that I snuck a peek.”
Reenie fumbled around in her pocketbook to hide her confusion and pulled out Devorah’s tiny envelope.
“Actually, I’m here to drop off my daughter Devorah’s broken earring,” she said, sinking into a fuchsia velvet armchair to steady herself.
“Nobody called to tell you that your earrings were ready?” the saleslady asked her.
“They probably called my husband. I’m here by coincidence. He’ll probably want to pick them up himself.”
Reenie skipped to her car with two words reverberating in her head. It worked!
She woke up early on Wednesday morning, and while Nosson was in shul davening, she squeezed a grapefruit, cut up a salad and ran out to buy bagel sticks and lox.
“Happy anniversary,” he said when he came home and saw the set table. “How festive.”
She fried two eggs, careful to keep the yolks runny.
Ten minutes into the meal, Reenie stiffened when he removed an envelope from his pocket. It’s too flat for a piece of jewelry.
“For you,” he said, suppressing a smile.
She withdrew a yellow sticky note that was scrawled with the words “Make reservations at Diets Excluded for 7:30 tonight. Be hungry. Have the best day ever!” She looked at him, her mouth open, the sticky part adhering to her palm.
“You wanted something tangible,” he said, using Reenie’s leftover crust to wipe his plate clean.
“Okay, it was bad joke,” he said. “I told you my surprises flop.”
“The surprise part didn’t flop.” She stuck the note on the milk bottle in front of her.
I’m onto his tricks. He wants to shock me with the jewelry while we bite into our shared Triple Chocolate Mousse Supreme.
That evening, they relaxed and enjoyed a delicious dinner, but despite indulging in full bowls of gooey onion soup and creamy pasta, Reenie left the restaurant hungry for that tangible something that never came.
Chaya apologized after shul on Shabbos for mixing Reenie up with a different Klein. She hadn’t looked at the first name on the sales ticket and assumed it was Reenie when she entered the store.
I guess I’ll have to buy the gifts for myself, Reenie resolved.
But before she had the chance, Nosson returned from an out-of-state business meeting and hurried upstairs to her with a bag hanging from his wrist.
“I stopped to get some pecans. I thought you’d like this,” he said, holding up the cutest canvas bag, bright red with the Trader Joe’s logo in pickle green lettering. Small, but not too small. Soft material. Funky colors.
“That’s adorable!” Reenie said, clapping so hard it stung. “Thank you!” She turned around to bite off the price tag, nearly choking on the thin plastic. The $3.99 was fine, adding charm to the surprise; that he hadn’t bothered removing it, wasn’t. But she had a new motto now: If Nosson bought it, she loved it no matter what, and she’d make sure that he knew. For starters, Reenie thanked him whenever she looked at it.
The next day, she made a point of putting stuff in the bag and toting it around in front of Nosson. She even brought it to her chest, wrapping her arms around it tightly and giving it a squeeze. Nosson laughed.
It’s working. He’s thrilled that I love it. Pesach was coming and Reenie hoped that her enthusiasm would encourage him to think jewelry.
Two days before Yom Tov, he came home late and found Reenie making borscht in the kitchen. Maybe he was at Glitz and Pearls all this time, deliberating between dangling earrings and studs, she thought to herself in gleeful anticipation.
“You work very hard for Yom Tov. I wanted to thank you, but it’s so hard to find the right thing,” he began.
“Oh, that’s all right. I’m—”
“The first store didn’t have it, so I traveled half an hour to a second. I wanted it to be a little bigger, but I’m positive you’ll love it.”
Her heart danced. Finally.
Nosson dashed out to retrieve his gift and placed it on the table with both hands. Beaming, he studied her reaction.
“It’s uh… awesome. Not too big. Subtle color. Love it!”
Reenie approached the table and fingered the piece of Nosson’s heart in front of her, a medium-sized canvas tote bag from Trader Joe’s.

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