Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Dream Deferred

This morning, we stood out in the blustery wind, with a barely warm sun, in line to see Anne Frank's house. I imagine any educated person in the industrialized world knows the story of Anne Frank, if not in detail, at least in general. I have to admit, however, that I did somehow manage to graduate high school without ever reading her book. So I also didn't know that her family lived in Amsterdam, after fleeing their native Germany. We couldn't pass up the historical lesson of going to her house, especially since L will be studying WWII this year in school, and has a report due when school starts about the war.

What surprised me? As soon as we walked into the house, I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. When we crossed over the threshold into the rooms that were for her father's business, I thought about being a young girl, barely older than my oldest daughter, and having to hide for your life, for 2 years. I managed to blink away the tears, until we got to the next floor. In the rooms which were her father's offices, was a video of his assistant, Miep, who he told they were going into hiding and asked for her help. Imagine entrusting someone with such an important secret.

On the landing in the hall way, is the bookcase that hid the entrance to the steep steps to the rooms that the families lived in; the Secret Annex, as they called. It's such an emotional tidal wave, considering the fear, hope, love, exhaustion, confusion, anxiety, frustration, friendship,patience, and faith that filled that space.
the Frank's home and business, Amsterdam
Her experience reminded me of those of African slaves in the U.S., running to freedom in the northern states and in Canada. Thru stories passed down, we've heard of the few people, if any, that a slave told they were leaving. The fear of being caught. The quietness required not to be discovered. Knowing the dangers of being found, but feeling that it was worth the risk to find freedom. The people one had to trust to make it. The inhumanity of it all.

We often consider historical moments as being so long ago that it doesn't even affect our lives. When I saw Anne's birth year, it brought into focus how close history is. She was born the same year as my father. When her family was going into hiding, my father was working, taking jobs vacated by men going off to fight in the war. Had she survived just another few months, she may be alive today, a proud grandmother, sharing her stories in person.

Apparently, Anne wanted her diary to be published. Encouraged by a radio broadcast from a Dutch government official who suggested that it's citizens keep their diaries to be shared after the war, she continued her diary, as well as made her own editorial changes and rewrites. In those bleak days, she had the vision that it would all end one day, that there was going to be a tomorrow when she could just be a teenage girl. And she dreamed of being a published author. She would never know that her father made sure her wish came true.

If she could dream, can't we all?

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