Recap: After a few harrowing experiences, Hans drives Mimi and the other children to the boat to the last Kindertransport. Meanwhile, back in France, Bayla is hearing radio reports about Poland being attacked by Germany.
It was too horrible. Shimon Zev tried to comfort me.
“We have to go home now,” I said.
“Bayla, the trains aren’t running. There is no way to get back right now. We have to wait until the fighting stops.”
I felt like my world was covered in darkness. How could we stay here when our family was being attacked? I clenched my fists in frustration.
Shimon Zev motioned me to come close. “The best things we can do now are to daven and learn. You go take out your T’hilim. Tante Aimee is already davening.”
I sighed and headed to my room to get my T’hilim. Holding it reminded me of Mama’s face when she’d handed it to me.
That was the beginning of a vigil by the radio. We all huddled close and listened to the reports of the war. It seemed that Poland’s army was no match for the German army. Poland surrendered. Germany also declared war on England and France, but the announcer said it was a phony war.
“Do you think they’re okay?” I whispered.
Shimon Zev nodded.
They had to be okay. I was glad they were with the Zabinskis. They seemed to know how to stay safe and what to do.
Days turned to weeks and I had to adjust to the fact that I wasn’t returning home any time soon.
The days grew colder. Tante Aimee bought me a beautiful winter coat with a belt and fur lining. One day, around Chanukah time, a letter came addressed to me. My hand trembled as I opened the envelope. It was a long letter dated from three weeks earlier. Mimi detailed how everyone was doing and how they were preparing for Chanukah. I read and reread the letter over and over and kept it under my pillow. It was a piece of home.
Sophie had lessons at home and I joined her. She had started slowly to do some of the exercises with me, and each time she did it, I thanked Hashem. She was discouraged. “This isn’t doing anything,” she said. “I’ll never walk again.”
“Don’t say that. You have to stay positive and visualize positive.” That was what my father always taught us. As I said the words, I realized that I wasn’t doing that enough for my own situation. I had to visualize and believe I would go back to my family soon.
One day, after all these months of my visit, I was digging in my suitcase for a book I thought I’d brought when my hand touched something wrapped. I realized with a start I’d never given Tante Aimee the painting from Mama. I brought it into the living room. Sophie exclaimed when she saw the package. “I can’t wait to see what Tante Sarah made for us.”
Tante Aimee unwrapped it gently. The painting was a serene lovely scene of a lake with mountains in the background and a lone sailboat drifting along the rippling water.
Tante Aimee lay the painting on a marble end-table. “It’s lovely,” she said, but her eyes registered pain.
Was she worried about my mother and father? Why didn’t she seem more excited about the painting?
Sophie glanced at it and turned away.
“Do you like it?” I asked innocently.
“I’m tired,” she said. “Nanette, please wheel me to my room.”
What was going on? She hadn’t answered my question and she was actually acting rude. Why the strange reaction to Mama’s beautiful painting?
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in various magazines including A Bridge in Time, historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). She writes the community column for The Queens Jewish Link and she writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivahs and she teaches creative writing to students of all ages.