Outwardly, Mom, in many ways, embraced her history and her parents’ past. She studied the Holocaust academically 15 on the graduate level and in her forties became a high school Jewish History teacher. She passionately engaged anyone who would listen in discussions, from a very academic and black-and-white perspective, about the Holocaust, while her mother wowed audiences with her emotional story that was anything but academic or black and white. On many occasions, she challenged her mother, Bubby, about a name of a specific camp or the year in which a specific event took place. She wanted to out-do her survivor mother in the area of the Holocaust.
As I write this, it still sounds bizarre, yet this is exactly what happened. As her daughter, I was embarrassed. I didn’t quite understand why she was so angry or more to the point, what I had to do with it, or what I could possibly do to change things. That wasn’t my job, but I didn’t know that then. I felt weirdness about all of it. I now know these feelings to be born from shame. I was a kid (and later a teen) and didn’t have the tools or ability to fix anything that had happened in the past—and I didn’t know that this wasn’t even possible. So I continued to feel icky—for lack of a better word—about all of it.
Of course, as the grandchild of my Bubby and Zeidy, I felt an enormous amount of pride. When you hear people discuss your grandparents’ histories using words like “miraculous” and “brave” and “unbelievable, ” how could you not feel proud? They were special. Their stories were special. Not many people had experienced what they had experienced, and even fewer had lived to tell about it. So it stood to reason that my family was special, that I was special. After all, were it not for my grandparents’ survival, I would not be alive.
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