The biggest shock of Cinder-Ella’s life hit her when she came home and saw a letter on the table and all the beds gone. With no explanation, her mother had left little Lorrie there alone, for Ella to take care of. And she did, but days passed and Mother didn’t come home. Cinder-Ella and Lorrie ate whatever they found: first they found bread. When that was gone, they mixed a cup of oats with water, or bit into a raw potato. Cinder-Ella couldn’t cook, so everything had to be cold. She decided not to believe in anyone, to depend on herself and not be an idiot.
Her worst enemy was her heart; it wanted to run away and look for Mother. It sneaked up to bother Ella when she prayed. When she tried to do homework she blanked out. She couldn’t stop this heart; it wouldn’t go away. She opened the door for it, just a crack:
Cry, stupid heart, and then leave me alone!
But no, it wasn’t satisfied. The heart screamed for more love, and more attention.
Then Cinder-Ella acted like an idiot; she rummaged for something to eat, though nothing was left, and her heart cried louder.
Note: One thing you need to know is that Cinder-Ella turned into a rat. She could live in all kinds of rotten conditions. She could eat anything, cold or hot, cooked or raw. She could sleep with her shoes on, even with wet socks. She could crawl on her belly uphill for three hours and not get tired. She lost patience for people who weren’t rats. In un-rat-like places, a clean house with electric lights and soft beds, she couldn’t breathe; she had to leave.
They walked, Cinder-Ella and Lorrie, in the rain to the market, to find food. The music there made Ella feel sad. The prices shocked her; nobody had money like that. People in the market borrowed and couldn’t pay back.
This explained why Mother got a letter in the mail. Then, the sheriff must have come to throw their beds into the street. The police must have taken their mother to jail, and now they brought the children to a locked up house.
So the police took Cinder-Ella and Lorrie to a locked-up house. You can imagine how loud the heart cried now. But Lorrie understood and told Cinder-Ella: the love in her heart was making it cry. Then everything that happened fell into place and made sense.
Ella dreamed that one day she found her way home and saw Mother in the kitchen. “Life is a dream,” Mother said, “and you are going to wake up--except you won’t be the same.”
Next day, Cinder-Ella spoke to the children locked up in the house. She couldn’t stand to hear them; she felt their pain in her heart, in her leg, and her shoulder, and her heart cried for all the children and their mothers. No one else took care of them and so she had to do it.
People who worked there thought she was a fool, a simpleton, not smart, nearsighted, and hard of hearing. They said she can’t speak well, can’t run fast or carry much; but in fact she was good at all these things. These people wasted energy to impress each other with their jokes, speed, money, strength, wit, and beauty. This only proved how poor they were. Whatever they had they would lose someday, but everything from G-d lasts forever.
Cinder-Ella’s perfect day would have been to take her sister out for a run; dance, tell her a joke, drink a tea, eat a banana, catch a train to Niagara Falls, anything so she didn’t have to see her sad face. She could at least enjoy the sunshine; her skin was so pale and white. Just once she wanted to see her crack a joke, sit around and do nothing, count the cars, play marbles or dominoes, anything! Throw a basketball. She was so serious it was impossible to get along with her.
Cinder-Ella was not afraid of anyone, except Lorrie. Her sister was strong; she was not afraid to fight. Everyone told Ella, yeah, you’re great; you’re perfect.
Lorrie told the truth: You are an idiot.
You can’t fix the pain.
Cinder-Ella longed for a day when they would sit together and not fight; they would forget the bad things they did, and start new. Was that good, or was it better to tell each other they were sorry for this thing and that thing? The list got long. The only problem was that she wasn’t sure how to fix what was wrong.
For example, she broke many things, most of them on purpose. How to replace the broken things? How about the painting she tore up? She didn’t know. But the artist was dead, and the painting…only one existed. It couldn’t be fixed. She felt so helpless standing there, not able to give an answer why she left her sister alone with the lost kids just for adventure and sunshine. In the end a giant hurricane broke the locked-up house.
When Cinder-Ella returned, five years later, she was a mess.
She hadn’t been there to help them. But they were all fine. It was not the way she expected. This bothered her more than anything. All along she was escaping the pain and the danger, the cold and damp, the hunger, the fighting, the bad people raiding houses for food and supplies; but the kids ended up okay. There was no explanation: G-d helped them.
As for Ella, she wanted excitement and she got it; she wanted to go it alone and got that too. The bad news was, there was almost nothing left of her. She had no good deeds, no skills, no friends, and no excuse. But one good thing came of it: She stuck to the truth. She could have said that the hurricane swept her away, and they would have believed her. The truth was that the endless crying of her heart swept her away, and she didn’t try to stop it.
So with one good thing, there was hope. Girls and mothers, the way they are built, will do a million stupid tasks just to help other people, most of whom are kids and helpless and messy and hungry and ungrateful. Still, nothing can change these girls who help with a smile. If you take away their job they feel lost and miserable.
And, after 120 years, the lost children will say:
Here lies a girl who was lost, and even so she used her power to find lost kids and make a home for them with her own two hands. Here lies a girl who found a way to be truthful and humble; a kid who talked to G-d every day no matter what. Here lies a kid who cried and complained and in the end learned how to be happy no matter what. Here lies a girl who was scared and now she’s not scared of anything. And if you happen to come here, say kadish, light a candle, learn mishnayos. Okay?