Sunday, January 27, 2013

Numbers

I had been going since always to his little store. Often on a morning we stopped in for my mother's New York Times, and a penny candy or two; we would leave hand in hand, I, chattering about something or other, never mind that my mouth was full of waxy chocolatey impossible tootsie roll, I talked on anyway and she listened as we walked the Brooklyn streets toward some other dull and comfortable errand.

That day, it was very hot. The little store, close and hot, drifting dust caught and held motionless in a broad shaft of sunlight from the open door. He leaned on the scratched glass countertop, his shirtsleeves rolled to the elbows, and as he chatted lightly to my mother, and as she answered lightly, in the way of all small talk everywhere, I caught sight of his bare wrist and I couldn't look away. I knew what it was; at that time, only one generation removed from the terrible Thing, all Jewish boys and girls knew the meaning of the mark.

Perhaps there was a glance of understanding between them, my young Jewish mother from Brooklyn and the old Jewish newspaper man who had come great distances from another place entirely. Perhaps I imagined that glance. But he let me look and he let me touch it, didn't flinch when I reached out without thinking.

And then he said the name, the name of his Camp. It sounded strange, that single word, as it fell from his mouth into the frozen moment. It was a weighted object, and I caught it in my hands before it could land, and I tucked it in my pocket, and there it remains to this very day.

"You are a good girl," he told me as we left. "A good girl for your mama."

Once more in the bright sunshine, I cried. Not the childish noisy tears of Notice Me, but a deep quiet crying that was beyond the reach of little soothing kisses and all possible succour. She took my hand, as she always did. That day, there were no other errands.

May his memory be, forever, a blessing.



14 comments:

nick said...

I like the idea of your catching the word and tucking it in your pocket. A sad moment for a sensitive young girl.

Your poignant story really brings home what today is all about.

63mago said...

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken sie abends
wir trinken sie mittags und morgens und trinken sie nachts

...

L. D. Burgus said...

This is very well written. One has to notice every word and phrase then feel the meanings.

savannah said...

thank you for this, dear friend. xoxoxox

Leah said...

Dear Mago, thank you, I have long loved Celan

Leah said...

It was a sad moment, Nick. I was really little and I still remember it so well.

Leah said...

Thank you! Thanks for visiting too

Leah said...

Thanks for reading it, sweet Miss S xx

mapstew said...

Our friend is right, you have a beautiful way of telling. :¬)

xxx

wendy house said...

Beautifully told story, thank you for sharing. W

Chantel said...

Oh, such a marvelous ache you've caused in my chest. Beautiful agony, this was.

Avenue U Ronne said...

I stumbled onto this page, looking for Rosamund Lehmann's book. I think I have found something wonderful. This story is so poignant and beautifully told - and brought memories of what I saw on the arms of my uncles, family friends, people at schul - when I was a little girl growing up in post-war Brooklyn. Like you, I always knew the meaning of those numbers, though my uncles never talked about them. They have been engraved on my heart for all these decades. May their memories be a blessing. I look forward to coming back and reading your blog.

Roses said...

Oh.

Thank you for honouring his memory and his courage here with such a beautiful story.

If only we could all be witnesses...

Sue said...



Leah that is absolutely beautiful. You have such a way of transporting the reader with your stories. Keep them coming!