I am supposed to be in Charleston, S.C. We all were, to visit a good friend of ours who lives there and tour the city on what would have been a rare family vacation.
We were supposed to go in October. But our work and school schedules got too busy, so we postponed it to November. Ditto. April seemed like the perfect time, over spring break and the last few days of Passover. Of course, that didn’t happen.
We’ve made plans for round four, but I’m not counting my chickens.
I realize that this sounds rather self-serving in the midst of so much hardship in the United States and around the world. And I’m not complaining; I’m really not. It just would have been nice to take my children somewhere new and educational.
My children are not doing something new and educational. Let’s face it, most kids aren’t.
The newness wore off long ago. The educational part; that’s iffy. They’ve seen a few documentaries. They’ve helped make a few recipes. We’ve been reading some books and going through the local art museum’s galleries online.
We attempt the Zoom sessions and scattered lessons, but I’m not going to pretend that’s the same as a full school day. We are all stagnating.
And yet, it hasn’t been that long. And while it has indeed been hard, in the annals of Jewish history, we have seen far worse. (After all, we just retold the Exodus story.)
My older two sons have had the privilege of visiting Auschwitz and several other concentration camps in Eastern Europe as part of a school program abroad. I have been to Auschwitz as well as part of a journalism trip back in April of 1994.
As we approach the anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on April 19, 1942, and Yom Hashoah on April 20-21, I think of how devastatingly hard those children had it. Kids locked away from their lives and worse. Hidden kids. Kids pulled from parents. Kids who never got to call themselves Holocaust survivors.
My teenager even mentioned all this the other day while reading his economically apt book for English: Death of a Salesman.
A longtime friend of ours who lives in Holland has an elderly mother and aunt who lived through World War II. They got ration tickets as children and were hungry—famished even—much of the time for years on end. As such, she never uses the word “starving.” Never.
When she approaches meal times, she tells people that “it would be nice to have something to eat.”
My kids now use that, too. When we are out and about and lose track of the time, when our stomachs growl, we remember that eating would be good. And we are reminded of Judith.
Funny, she was supposed to be in the United States this week, visiting her 90-year-old aunt, who moved to the United States long ago and happens to live near us. We were planning to meet her before we left for South Carolina just as she flew in, when we surely would have shared a meal.
Until then, we’ll feast our eyes on the photos she posts on Facebook, the places we’ll one day see and those daily art-museum paintings, which really do perk up our day.
And when the time comes, it will be nice to have somewhere to go.
Carin M. Smilk is the managing editor of JNS.
This Reporter’s Notebook will appear starting on March 16 until the end of the month (or when schools reopen).