The title of today's blog entry "Always keep hope" comes from my mom. That's her in today's pc, and that's my dad watching her. And on the computer screen you can see 150 students from Dumas Intermediate School in Dumas, Texas. I was invited to do a Skype visit with two groups of students from Dumas -- and because I was speaking about my novel, What World Is Left, which is based on my mother's real-life experience in a Nazi concentration camp, it made sense for me to do the Skypes from my parents' house so that the students could meet my mom.
It's hard -- even for a writer -- to find words to tell you about what happened this morning. My mom is 85, a little frail, and far less connected to people than she used to be. Sometimes, she has trouble finding words for her sentences, but today, well, she was amazing. I did most of the talking (about writing in general, about how I did the research for What World Is Left), but I think it's safe to say that my mom stole the show!
The students deserve credit, too. Not only did they listen attentively, but they had prepared excellent, sensitive questions. A young man named Fabian asked my mom, "Who or what did you miss most?" My first thought was that I should have thought of asking that question back in 2007 when I was researching the book! My mom paused for a moment before answering Fabian's question and I could feel her going back in time. She did not miss anyone or anything when she was in Theresienstadt, a Nazi concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic. "You only could think of survival," she told Fabian.
Joaquim wanted to know what my mom ate for breakfast when she was imprisoned at Theresienstadt. "It's a very short story," my mom answered -- displaying her trademark sense of humor (I told the students that for me, my mom's humour is a sign of her resilience and courage.) Then she went on to explain that breakfast was a cup of fake coffee and two slices of dark bread.
Even the school's prinicpal, Mr. Rhodes, had a question for my mom. "I hope it won't be too difficult" she said, joking again. Mr. Rhodes wanted to know how the Holocaust affected my mom's view of God. "Did you ever feel that God had forgotten you?' he asked. I have to tell you that the question kind of took my breath away -- it's another question I've never asked my mom. Her answer? "God must have tried to stop it, but He didn't succeed."
I am feeling very privileged that I got to "travel" to Dumas today, and that I got to bring my parents along, too. Just as the title of today's blog entry comes from my mom, I'm also going to give her the last word. Before we shut down Skype, I asked my mom to say good-bye to the students, she told them, "Thanks. It made me feel hopeful."
Thanks to the Grade Six classes at Dumas Intermediate School, to your teachers who prepared you so well, to Mr. Rhodes, and Mrs. Craigmiles for arranging today's visit.