In 2002 my estranged father sent a thick envelope to me. In it were several closely spaced pages of notes. He was particularly proud of work he had done as an Intelligence Operative in World War II. The tasks had been classified under a long-term nondisclosure agreement, and he was releasing his true account of the 1943 events in the South Pacific. Nobody knew if the story was true. In fact, an abbreviated record of his accomplishment was not read at his funeral because he had told so many crazy stories over the years. He was buried with honor and an enigma.
No one had ever heard an accurate account of how he came to leave Holland, or why he decided to reject his cultural origins as a Dutch Jew. He did introduce me to his sister, my delightful aunt, and I spent several long stays with her in Amsterdam, meeting various distant cousins, going to synagogue and hearing how their lives were shaped by the Holocaust. The stories of brother and sister touched but did not intersect neatly. Over time I realized they were both telling the truth, from very different points of view and the two conflicting stories were one tale of separation, making choices, and survival.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
My first published story appeared at the age of 7. The Rainy Picnic marked destiny, not because it had rained, but because my second grade teacher asked me to sit on the floor for hours and carefully letter my little story onto poster paper for a display in the front hall of the school.
I must have written the story because of the impact that picnic had on me - the sandwiches and birthday cakes on the table, the whipped cream fight between my 28 year old mother and her younger brothers, and how we dined outside in the thunderstorm, watching clouds and lighting cross the valleys below us. The picnic ground stood at the top of a hill, and it must have been a perfect target for the storm that passed over.
I visited Sullivan's Monument a few weeks ago. There were no storm clouds that evening. The sunset lit trees in their first changes into fall color. But I could still feel those raindrops.
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