The Lucky Ones

In 1939, before crossing the ocean to his new home in the Pacific, my grandpa spent a month in Paris with his two young cousins, Ernest and Frank Wohl, who were like brothers to him. After the war, my grandpa spent years trying to track down the Wohl brothers, only to finally, in the 1980s, find their names listed on transports to Auschwitz. His older cousin, along with his aunt and uncle were taken in cattle cars two whole weeks before his younger cousin. My 5-year-old requires my presence to fall asleep at night. Sometimes as I lie with him, wishing I could extricate myself from underneath his small, warm body, I think about little Ernest, all alone, riding to his death, and I give my baby an extra squeeze…

In 2008, my brother and I accompanied my grandparents to Auschwitz where we spent time in an exhibit on Parisian Jews. Covering the walls were pictures of those who perished in the camp. When my grandfather spotted his cousins he quietly, with hand on chin, exclaimed “by golly,” before sinking to the floor where he spent the next several minutes staring up at the cousins he hadn’t seen for 70 years…

My grandmother, who is the smartest woman I know, and who was valedictorian of her class, almost didn’t graduate from college on account – as family lore would have it – of an unjust and arcane graduation requirement to swim the length of a pool. Though her mind was sharp, physical prowess had never been her thing, and it took three tries and the support and cheer of all her friends to overcome this hurdle. She prevailed, much like the resilient German immigrant who escapes the Nazis and crossed two seas to find his way to her…

And this is why, in my family, complaining only gets you so far. Because, how can you compete?!

Published by imworriedmytherapisthatesme

I'm a history-PhD-turned-stay-at-home-mom of three. When I'm not microwaving Trader Joe's meals for my kids, breaking up fights and wiping butts, I like to paint and write. To cope with the endless hours I'm spending with my son doing virtual school, I've abandoned my gouache paints for the more portable, less messy tried but true, paper and ink. While he learns to read to 20 floating heads on his screen, I sit on a tiny chair, at a tiny table pretending to be a productive adult.

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