This is a four-year-old post. Sports Guy is now a soldier, as are all of his brothers. I can't say it better now. Please share your thoughts.
|Photograph from the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives.|
My eyes filled. "I know, Honey. I know."
After a long quiet hug, we found something else about the Thirties to write about. I don't remember what it was -- something about a US president, probably. But we established a clear understanding between us at the time: Dani doesn't do Holocaust. Intuitively, I understand that he "carries" it differently than my other sons do. Is he "an old soul"? Does he have dreams like his mother's? I don't know. But I respect that he handles this differently than his brothers do. His brothers all want to crush and destroy anyone who would threaten the Jewish people ever again. Dani agrees. But something in Dani remembers or just knows how much it hurt to be a Jew then. He feels it in a way they cannot.
As I type, I glance at the clock. I know that I am going to ground him for being late getting home, just like normal mothers do in normal times. Baruch Hashem, he will say that he is sorry, and that he will get better in the future. Just like normal kids, in normal times. Thank G-d.
"I'm sorry. I was hanging out with friends. I lost track of time. I know -- it's my fault."
"Did you see the film?"
"No. I'm sorry." (He thinks I'm disappointed. Oy, vey.) "I was talking, and I came too late. A couple of mothers and a kid talked. Hebrew. I didn't understand much.
"Then, we all sang 'Gam ki ailech' and 'Ani ma'amim' and 'Hatikvah.' That was pretty cool."
"You know what it was all about?"
"Yeah. Go to bed, okay?"
"Okay, Ema. G'night. I love you."
"You, too, buddy."
After Sports Guy trundles off to bed, I think of a cherished memory.
Soldier Boy was younger, and was -- uh, let's just say he was "giving me fits."
But deep down inside him was a kid who wanted Mama and Papa to be proud. He has a beautiful voice, does Soldier Boy. He learned all of the words to "Mama Rochel," a famous Yaakov Shwekey song, written by Abie Rotenberg.
We don't speak Yiddish in my house. Not our cultural upbringing. But he memorized all of the words, even the Yiddish words.
And while he was singing the Yiddish words at the end, I thought suddenly of my father's grandmother, Ruth, for whom I am named. As far as I know, she was the last religious person in my father's family. As the story goes, the family was pretty wealthy. They had gathered at the family farm just outside of Warsaw... and then the Nazis came. One of them said to my father's lookalike cousin, "Here boy -- catch!" And this animal threw to my father's cousin a hand grenade. My grandmother saw "her son" blown up -- and even though they presented him later (he'd been hiding under a haystack) -- Rita was never the same.
There was a mentally-retarded girl in the family. The Nazis decided to take her into the woods... Of course she was afraid. My paternal great-grandmother, Ruth, said, "I'll go with the child." They were taken into the woods, and that is the last anyone in the family knew of them.
So when I heard my son, in his unbelievably sweet tones, singing this Yiddish lyric... I thought I could hear Ruth, Hy"d, saying: "I won, Adolf. I am still here, through this boy. YOU are gone. But I am still here."
To carry on. To keep singing and telling over... To let them know that we will never let them down again. To fight to protect our people, in our land. And everything that means -- even to protect the holy aspects some of our grandparents did not know.
That's what it's about, isn't it? Never, ever again.