Her feet pounded on the dry cracked earth. Dust rose like smoke clouds behind her as she ran across the barren expanse of land: A courtyard surrounded by housing for the Military Officers. There were no children playing out in the open; at any moment there could be shells, or gun shots.
She got home and ran to her room. Everything important to her was pushed against an interior wall. She sat on her bed, so rarely slept in, the danger was at night – they slept together in an interior room.
A ribbon in her hand clutched so tightly, so tightly. She knew she shouldn’t have taken it. She was so jealous – it was so beautiful. Her parents couldn’t buy her anything as beautiful. Even as the knock on the door came and she heard the low voices of her mother and Johanna’s mother, she knew she couldn’t keep it. She was ready when her mother came to her bedroom door, before her mother could speak she handed her the beautiful hair ribbon, one of many Johanna kept on her dresser. Would Johanna have really missed it?
Quick images, little glimpses, snippets. My mother had a whole life full of pain, sorrow and loss before she knew the world that we live in. She lived a life of fear and wanting. A life of uncertainty.
She is a Sabra: A Jewish woman born in Palestine. She is a child of war; of two wars. Born in 1939 to parents who had fled everything they knew as almost strangers – nay, companions – to start a new life in a country on the brink of another war.
My grandmother left this world at the age of 96, I was 34 and had realized too late how much I wanted to know. How much I needed to know. Her memory was failing her by then and the stories were often disjointed, rambling. I didn’t know then that my mother would not be able to fill in the blanks. I didn’t know that every time I asked about her past her eyes would swell with tears and she would refuse to go on. I would refuse to push her.
I couldn’t push her because her pain was too much for me to bear, I didn’t want to know about the pain. Only the adventure, the wonder of a foreign land. But to an 8-year-old who learned about war from the front; stray bullets through bedroom windows and the poverty of being the child of a military doctor willing to fight a war for nothing but his birthright. She was not first or even second. Her fears could not be consoled.
When at 13 she moved to the United States and her father became an American doctor, and a well-known photographer and musician; she shut the door. She cleaned the slate and created the American girl she wanted to be. An American girl with no past. No pain. There was no therapy for children of The War of Independence, there was excitement and hope. Israel was a state! What more could you ask for? Your father was a hero.