This short nonfiction story was written by my daughter and is based on the true story of her great grandparents’ attempt to hide from the Nazis in occupied Holland. I realize it’s too long for a blog post, but it’s so good, I had to share it here today, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
They left without doing the dishes.
Arie got the call from Peter at the Underground Movement in the morning, when the sky still carried the remaining pallor of dawn, and they left the plates and silverware on the dining table and ran to get ready. The bags were already packed, mostly, so Miep and Arie needed only to throw in the last of their things. Liz, who had been sitting rather quietly in her high chair during breakfast, was startled by the sudden commotion and began to wail, kicking her legs wildly. Miep took her in her arms, changed her diaper quickly, and then put her in the padded basket that sat with the rest of the bags by the front door.
The three of them were ready in a matter of minutes. Arie donned his heavy winter coat and hat; Miep wrapped her scarf around her neck and then slid into her jacket. It was her nicest jacket, the pinstriped garment that matched her skirt, and she wore it only on the most festive, important occasions. She had worn all her best clothes today, because what did she know – they may be the last things of hers she ever wore.
Arie opened the front door and carried the bags into the trunk of the car while Miep settled Liz into the backseat. Then he ran back into the house, into the study, where inside a locked drawer lay a wrinkled piece of paper. He unlocked the cupboard and retrieved the note before running back to the front door, allowing himself one last glance back at the house. The kitchen was a mess. Dirty bowls with wooden spoons cluttered the counter, the empty teapot still sat on the stovetop with its lid raised in the air, little jars of sugar and salt and a bag of flour lay on the granite surface, still open. The dining room table was still covered with their painted china plates, soiled with crumbs, the silverware stacked haphazardly on top of them. Their porcelain cups held the dark remnants of strong coffee; the tablecloth had been pulled to the side a bit in their rush, leaving the cup of cream and the butter plate toppled over on their sides. The Gestapo would know they were not coming back.
Then Arie shook himself out of his daze, stepped outside, and closed the door behind him. Miep was waiting patiently by the car door, the cold wind teasing her hair, pulling a few dark strands loose from her neat bun. They each climbed into their sides of the car. Arie started the engine, and it groaned and coughed and sputtered deafeningly, trying to warm up in the freezing winter air. Arie took to the slip of paper from his pocket, unfolded it, and placed it behind the steering wheel. 784 Walemstraat, Limburg, NL. The engine roared to life and they were off.
Miep turned on the stove and set the pot of water on to boil. They would be having soup again tonight. Money seemed to be disappearing faster and faster, and nobody knew where it was going. Since her father had been fired from his job at the hospital (“Our patients will be more comfortable with an Aryan staff,” they’d said), Miep’s parents had been pinching pennies as much as possible. Miep helped out when she could; she knit socks and scarves to sell in the marketplace, worked odd housekeeping jobs for the other Jewish families in the area, and constantly learned new strategies of stretching meals. Tonight’s special: the boiled leftovers of their last couple of dinners – vegetable scraps, potatoes, chunks of meat – served in hot water in a sad interpretation of soup. Miep sighed as she stirred in the carrots.
[click to continue…]