Friday, October 30, 2009

Last weekend my daughter’s love of the theater brought me and hundreds of people a wonderful gift in the form of a Czechoslovakian Holocaust survivor, Ela Stein Weissberger.

My twelve year old was in the ensemble cast of the operetta Brundibár, our first experience with the Children’s Theater of Annapolis. Brundibár, composed by Hans Krasa in Prague for a competition in 1938, was only performed twice in a The Jewish Orphanage for Boys before the children and staff were transported by the Nazis to Terezin, a layover for most on the way to the extermination camp, Auschwitz.

Terezin, a Czech village of seven thousand citizens, inflated to at times 90,000 Jewish prisoners. If they weren't transport to the horrors of Auschwitz, they faced starvation, exposure, typhus, and fear in Terezin. Of the 15 thousand children brought through Terzin, only 100 survived. One of those surviving children was Ela.

The Nazis forbid the education of the children in Terezin, but the adults did their best to smuggle in paper and pens. After their long days in stone mines or other hard labor, the adults taught the children what they could. They encouraged them to write poetry and draw pictures on the back of scraps of paper and old forms. When Hans Krasa arrived, he managed to sneak in his children's operetta, Brundibár.

Although education was forbidden, for some reason, the Nazis granted permission for the children to learn and perform this short little opera about a brother and sister overcoming a villainous organ grinder with the help of the other children and a few talking animals. It was the story about how banding together gives victory over tyranny. Fortunately, the Nazis didn't speak Czech.

The Nazis did take advantage of the performance when they used Terezin as a cover for the international inspectors. After shipping thousands out of the prison-village, the Nazis planted flowers, provided better clothes to the prisoners, built a bandstand in the town square, and had the children perform Brundibar for the Red Cross.

In all, Brundibár was performed 55 times in Terezin. Ela played the role of the cat in all 55 shows. This effervescent septuagenarian feels it is her duty to speak about her experience. She travels the world, taking the stage with Brundibár casts for the final victory song which she still sings in Czech.

Before the operetta, the performers read from the poetry recovered from Terezin's children. One of their teachers, on hearing she was to be shipped out, filled a suitcase with the contraband poetry and art and hid it in an attic in the village. It was recovered after the war and is now performed with the opera.

Ms. Weissberger spoke to the cast before the show opened and to all of the audiences. She continued to unravel her tales in the lobby where she signed books and programs.

She told stories of the children she performed with and her teachers. She spoke of the growing numbers of "the deniers" and the need to remember. She held up the star the Nazis gave to her so many years ago and said in her Slavic accent, "Now it's my lucky star. I am Jewish and not ashamed of it." She said after the war she thought Brundibár died with her friends. She thanked the children and the audience for remembering her friends through their performance.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This morning I saw a shooting star.

Tipped off by Anne, I put on my winter coat and grabbed my coffee and went out before the sunrise and stared at the sky. Only a few stars were visible, more obscured by the lights below than the rising sun.

I thought of my friends in hospitals and my friends who are waiting by their bedsides and in waiting rooms. I thought of loves lost and love found. I thought of each of my children and their endeavors and relationships.

My coffee cooled. The sky brightened. The early birds began their worm patrol.

Then I saw it. A meteor skidded across the sky, a dot of white trailing orange and red.

It reminded me my mom's red peignoir that, after four babies, she relegated to the dress up box. That ruffled scarlet chiffon was the favorite dress up. When a storm was approaching and the winds kicked up before the rain appeared, my sister and my neighbor would put on our flowiest dress ups and go spin in the wind. The luckiest of us got the red peignoir. We were fairies caught in a whirlwind.

How often did that happen? How long ago? How is it that I am the adult now, responsible for so much? When was the last time I ran out in the wind just to thrill at the flutter of my sheer red cape, a frivolous superman?

It all goes by as fast as a piece of stardust burning through the atmosphere, trailing a shower of sacral sparks.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The next article I'm writing for Taste of the Bay is on a cook's essential tools and essential pantry items.

What couldn't you do without in the kitchen?
What do you always keep in the pantry?
(I mean besides delivery phone numbers.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

I love this photo of Obama in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans that ran in today's Washington Post.

It's an AP photo by Gerald Herbert.

After Obama spoke to the crowd, a 4th grade boy, Tyren Scott, who said he loved the president, asked Obama why so many people hated him. Obama reminded the 9 year old that lots of people voted for him and not everyone hated him.

I'm with Tyren. I love this president.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I am delighted that an Amish Farmer's Market has moved fairly close to my home. Shopping there is an event, a delicious one too. So when I was there yesterday, I checked to see if they had organic milk. (After having done research over the last year on organic foods, I will never buy commercially produced milk for my family.) They did. It was from Trickling Springs Creamery in PA and came in adorable glass jars. I get a deposit return when I bring them back for a refill.

The difference, besides the usual differences in organic milk, was this 2% milk was not homogenized. So when I opened it, there was a thick layer of cream on top, almost like a wax seal. I couldn't even disrupt it by shaking it. I poked it with a butter knife and splashed myself. My kids were horrified to see clumps of cream in their milk. They had never experienced this before. They were not amused, thinking I had gone too far this time. I thought it tasted good.

I remember as a little girl that we still had a milk box on the front porch. I don't really remember the milk, but we used the box for a variety of dropping-off transactions, and for climbing on the check the mailbox.

Have you ever had non-homogenized milk? Do you remember a milkman?