Way back in the dark ages when I was young and nerdy and in high school, (did you know those words are synonymous?) I met an amazing person. It all started when I was palling around with a group of girls roughly all the same age, at the church we all attended. I think it was more of a ‘thrown in the middle of it situation’ rather than, ‘I’m choosing you to be my friend situation’, mostly because of how churchy events were scheduled but it worked. There were about 6 or 7 of us and we’d spend lunch times together, going to the school dances as a crowd and having slumber parties as well as all those other girly things we would do. I wasn’t in the ‘party’ crowd, it didn’t appeal to me But I was in a group where we laughed. A LOT. We did have a lot of fun and I have very fond memories.
One of the girls had two really cute brothers too, and a farm, with horses, and cats, and snowmobiles to ride in the winter and I wasn’t intimidated by her parents. In fact I liked her parents so much that I started spending a lot more time with them. Her mother was this young beautiful woman with a funny accent. She had gorgeous blue eyes and the blondest hair I’d ever seen. Her husband was a father and husband first, a successful farmer and also a tenor in the church choir. This man actually had a full ride to Julliard when he was a young man. Unfortunately he never got to go, but stayed home to work on the family farm. I’d often wonder how different his life would have been. However, I digress.
This family was different than my family. Don’t get me wrong all families are different. I love my family and childhood, and it’s what I know. This family welcomed me into their home as a part-time participant. But I wasn’t the only one, they hosted exchange students, and when the older son went to college this family would let him bring some of his ‘city friends’ home with him and teach them ‘farm life’. The eye candy was good when they were baling hay,but I was way too shy to do anything about it.
As I grew up and went to college I became even better friends with ‘the mom’, even though the daughter and I were in the same college. While in high school ‘the mom’ was very supportive of me and we had countless talks on many subjects, mostly about my future. She had great hopes for me and knew that whatever I did I would be successful. It’s not that I didn’t get that at home, it just wasn’t as verbal, and I ate it up from her. Best of all she was funny and had a great sense of humor, and could take our teasing about her accent.
While in my junior year of college ‘the dad’ of the family succumbed to cancer at the very early age of 41. It had been a long hard fight and it was the first time for me that I saw the ugliness that cancer is. This young family was wounded in a way I wouldn’t understand until my own dad died of cancer in 1995. ‘The mom’ was devastated, her whole life was going to be very different and sad without him. They were a great couple and I never saw or heard a stern word from either one of them toward the other. They were so in love and happy.
Not long after the death she sold the farm and had a very similar house built closer into town, had a garden, watched her children grow up and become parents. ‘The mom’ had always had a thirst for knowlege so enrolled in the local university to study language. As a young adult myself I had moved away after college and was in Seattle by now, so in the summers when she would come to the UW to study, we would continue to spend time together when we could both carve out those hours. What I saw in her was a dedicated person that had a goal that I wasn’t particulary aware of, but I saw the passion. She of course went on to gradutate with honors and at the age of 60 joined the Peace Corp to teach English to young people in Hungary. That in and of itself is amazing- to join the Peace Corp at 60 years of age.
When she returned from her two years with the Peace Corp, she met a man and eventually got remarried. They have now been married over ten years. She and her husband came and danced at my wedding 7 years ago so the great friendship has continued. A year or so ago when Sweet Husband and I were at their home in Idaho, we sat down to visit, she wanted to read something to us. She read to us about a young girl that was being taken prisioner by the Nazi’s. She continued for a short time describing the horrible feelings, smells and terror of the situation. She paused, looked up at us and with tears in her eyes, told us that she was that little girl. She at the age of 70 was for the first time able to face the demon of her youth, she had been a prisionor of war in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. I had no idea, after all of these years. She went on to tell us that once she got to the United States that she wouldn’t think about having been in a concentration camp anymore because is was so horrific. So she hid it away for a very long time. But something changed in the last little while and she felt it necessary to write her story. From her demeanor as a very positive and happy person, it is something that would have never been suspected, she hid that secret very well.
I’d been waiting for her book and several weeks ago she sent me a copy and I read it. It was especially hard for me because I know her. It was equally hard because it was told through the eyes of a child, a child that should never been put in that situation. But it was also an amazing read because I love her so much.
Today in the Idaho Statesman there is a story about her. I’ve been waiting for this story because when we spoke last week she said that she was being interviewed. I told her that I read the Statesman every day online and that I would look for it. I invite you to read the link, she really is someone that you should know. I also urge you to read her book, her story needs to be told too.