Thursday, May 12, 2016

Writer MOM

Brad and I took her to Cleveland, just the three of us to see 1D.  Super fun.  Did y"all know that Harry cut his hair and gave it to charity for children with cancer?  Brad does.
SOOOO. I know this is going to sound uber GAY, but I am going to post something that SEEEEMMMMS like I'm bragging...and I AM.  So, full disclosure, assholes.

I'm gonna tell you a little more about Hallie, my eighth grader.  She is like soooooo NOT athletic.  She danced for years and years and years and we were almost about to pull the trigger on Dance Team, or whatever and I just couldn't DO IT.  I persuaded her to try out for team sports her 7th grade year, instead.  It was so cathartic for her.  She was not the BEST at the shot put, or field hockey, but she learned so much about herself and met friends that she would never have been introduced to otherwise. She morphed into a confident 8th grader, who is completely competent in EVARY aspect of her life, with the exception of her hygiene and her room.  The girl friendship thang is fluid and as a great neighbor of mine once advised me, "Those girls will fall in and out of love with each other for the next ten years.  You better get USED to it now, or you will drive yourself insane with three girls."  (PREACH, Bev!)  Regardless, I CANNOT get that girl's hair clean and she resides in filth and chaos.

But, I love her MADLY, and she is the only Schell descendant to graduate middle school, so I am just  "over the moon" as my Mom would say, filled to the brim with a contradiction of emotions this last month, to say the least.  Nowadays when I need to give her advice, I try to be thoughtful before I approach her with an idea about her future, because I just found out that she is a better writer than I am.

When I finally got over my seething jealousy, I came to the realization that I need to embrace her talent - not squash it. I said to myself, "Self, you need to not only nurture her gift, but You need to CAPITALIZE on it."  I have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor, y"all.  What do you call a "Momager" in the literary World? A "Meditor", a "Magent", if you will.

Anyway, I want to have a guest blog on here today, my daughter, Hallie.  She wrote this for school.  The assignment was to pick an identity card from the Holocaust Museum (This is a card with the description of a Holocaust victim, in about a hundred words or so.)  You then were to journal as if you WERE that person and describe what your life was like during that time.

Hallie THINKS this is a gift for her, but REALLY it is a gift for me.  Now I don't have to buy her an ACTUAL 8th grade graduation present and I can just show her her STATS on blogger and tell her that THAT should satisfy her more than some stupid Urban Outfitters peasant dress with cutouts.  Am I right?

Anyway, thanks for reading us both.


August 12, 1925
Every morning, Benny Budny is the first to get the paper. He skips through the door and bends down to meet my eyes with his. He’ll hold his breath for a moment and then he’ll shout, “Cendorf! Get your nose out of that book!” His shouts are but a contribution to the men arguing about religion and politics and impersonating the cantankerous Mrs. Schurwan that works at the bar down the street where the older men go out after work.
Benny tosses me a nickel and gets a fresh newspaper off the printer. And the boisterous young man who seems he could never keep his mouth shut sits beside me for hours reading every word of the paper while I find my place in my book and study the tales my own imagination could never fathom.
Benny asked me this morning why I sometimes found myself falling asleep by the printing press. My parents convinced themselves that their boy who had always been interested in literature and writing would become a rabbi, but I rebelled and found myself applying for my current job. I have told the Lord that our lives are short.
Father,” I began, “A bird with its necessities given on a silver platter longs to be freed not because it is never satisfied but because it fears it will spend eternity looking for purpose trapped in a cage.” I can not trap myself in my religion when religion is meant for one’s strength and happiness. I find my strength and happiness through Him, through my family and Benny Budny, through the peonies that come up in the Spring and through my collection of torn pages and broken spines.
I will pick up a pen and never put it down if it meant I was working toward a young man opening a book with my name written down the spine and reading tales his own imagination cannot fathom. The caged bird has been working tirelessly, but the caged bird has been working tirelessly in the direction of interest.
I have begun to comprehend a novel is never a tale. Every word was chosen by an author for a reason, and every writer’s work comes from a brain attached to a human being that lives and loves and faces problems. Inspiration can come from anywhere, but it has to come from somewhere. I am beginning to understand the writer’s struggle, for my best poem tells of a young printer in hopes of writing good poetry.

February 28, 1933
I had spent my last two weeks in Poland trying to fit my last eighteen years into the small, yellow suitcase at my feet. It was announced Adolf Hitler was the chancellor of Germany and his intentions for the Jewish were cruel and frighteningly achievable in power. I hadn’t seen my father cry until January 30th, when he told me it wasn’t safe to be in Lodz anymore.
My mother had met the suitcase at a flea market when I was only eight years old. The suitcase had a personality of its own. It was the only bright suitcase at the stand and grew flowers of pinks and violets that spilled over the side onto the old, brown suitcases it consorted, which made it impossible for it not to catch my mother’s eye. The suitcase-selling-women wore bonnets on their heads, and had big, wrinkled noses and friendly smiles. My mother paid the women and carried the yellow suitcase home. On a rainy day like that, the yellow suitcase was the sun and my mother and I held the sun in our hands, singing and giggling as jumped in puddles on the way home.
I had felt like the Baltic Sea. A deep blue storm reaches the mainland in the dead of night carrying waves the size of skyscrapers that disintegrate against the shore. Seagulls frantically fly across the sable skies, and lightning and thunder join to warn the fishermen of the ocean’s ugly temper.
I had spent my last two weeks in Poland watching my mother cry on my father’s shoulder while my father goes mad trying to sell a shoelace factory to a community trying to sell to him. A raincloud found its place above me and has rivalled me these last two weeks, and my whole world had turned blue.
The Bundy household was red and made of brick, and towered above its neighbors. I knocked on the door and waited for someone to excuse themselves from the breakfast table to greet me one last time. I had said goodbye to the old men at the printing press and bought one last paper. Small, black print told stories of Lodz; stories I would hope to return and read. Perhaps Benny would read the paper with his father that afternoon, yelling at the men in the photos for the audacity of their political decisions as a newspaper should be read. My heart fluttered as footsteps filled the house. I had grown up with the Bundys, the loud and opinionated bunch, but in my last two weeks I hadn’t even stopped to bid them hello. In fact, I grew more anxious every day I didn’t see Benny, and I wouldn’t want anything more than to sit on the bench by the printing press and read with Benny for hours. I had never thought I would have to leave my best friend. The door swung open and Benny’s blue eyes met mine in seconds. His father yelled from inside the house, and Benny stared at me with pity. He slammed the door. I was blue.
The train was jet black. The monster grew louder as it came closer to the train station where my father, mother and I stood in a straight line with our suitcases held tightly in our hands. I could not comprehend how we had the money to buy these train tickets. I didn’t ask my parents, for I knew they were just as pensive as I. My parents sat across from me in their own red velvet seats, my father’s arm around my mother in attempt to keep her warm from the morning’s rain. I opened my book and felt the wheels had begun to turn.
“May the men at the printing press sell a million copies today,” I prayed, “May Benny Budny find the paper I left at his doorstep and spend the entire afternoon reading it with his father, may my torn pages and broken spines become the favorites of the children at the orphanage in which I donated and Lord, may my yellow suitcase, my mother, my father and I travel to Paris safely.”

August 15, 1940
Marthe’s house was small and well-decorated. Her mother painted every wall a new shade of green, and I was surprised that the large family with two cats kept white furniture clean. The house had dim lights, and every room had a piece of artwork that told a different story. In fact, when I met the artist her hair was tied back and a thin, splattered paint brush tucked behind her ear. Marthe was older than I was, but not much older. She was taller than I was, but only when she wore high heels. Her dark hair fell onto her shoulders in loose curls, and her eyes were a unique shade of green; a forest of everlasting pine. She kneeled over a canvas and was painting a room of heartbroken people. I sat down beside her and admired the painting. “Why do they grieve?” I asked.
“I can only paint frowns these days,” she sighed. “My father left for work one morning weeks ago and hasn’t returned.”
The meetings were held in the basement. They were very quiet, but I could not get the thought out of my mind that inside every person sitting around me wanted to scream at the world and break into tears. Smart people argued of the idea of a fascist government system and everyone contributed to possible solutions. Everyone but Marthe, who silently wept. I asked her to dinner. (
But Marthe told me not to worry, so I didn’t. I took her to a troupe with marble floors and high ceilings. A grand piano sat elegantly on a stage that carried no entertainment for the wealthy crowd it accompanied. I hadn’t played piano since I was ten years old and hated to practice, but when Marthe lay in a long, satin dress and the cluttered and vigorous theatre fell silent in amazement of the sounds of the grand instrument, I wanted to write her a symphony. She smiled at me with crinkled eyes and told me for the first time she loved me as she took my hand to take a bow. She embodied Paris so perfectly; beautiful, creative, so full of excitement and energy. Marthe had spent two years making me feel like life was a photograph and she and I would spend eternity at the grand piano.
She sat at a mirror in the dressing room smoking a cigarette while I struggled to fully understand a good book written in French. “Les loups sont ici.” I looked up from my book and stared at her profoundly until she clarified. “Les Allemands occupĂ© Paris ce matin. As tu entendu?” “The wolves are here.” She said. “The germans occupied Paris this morning. Have you not heard?”
I remained in denial, waking every morning to peddle wood and support my family. I had become more involved in the Writer’s Union, reading my poems to all who would listen and making friends with those who shared my interest. My mother certainly didn’t seem to be bothered by the company of the Nazis either, as she walked the streets of Paris confidently alongside petite women she had befriended when we moved here. The women here wear big, colorful hats and have intelligent minds and my mother has finally found herself. Although I had to work harder for my mother’s happiness, it brought me joy seeing her giggle alongside her girlfriends.
But with time, the energy of Paris depreciated. Jewish men, women and children were being taken, and everyone was being affected in one way or another. Maybe it was their mother, maybe it was the milkman with the handlebar mustache that waved to everyone he passed on his route. But everyone was affected and everyone could only wait to see what would come to renew their faith in humanity. I had stayed out of trouble and kept Marthe in my heart.
With a German man’s hand on my shoulder as he led me into prison, I kept Marthe in my heart. Preparing for my own imprisonment, I had begun to associate my yellow suitcase with terrible sorrow. I packed lightly and carelessly, for what was most important to me couldn’t be packed into a suitcase at all. I could not pack memories at the grand piano or at the bench by the printing press. I could not pack the million torn pages and broken spines I have not yet read. I could not pack Marthe’s beautiful paintings, and I could not pack the Baltic sea.

March 12, 1942
Two thousand winter coats that remained in the closet, and four thousand shoes that remained at the back door. Maybe two hundred pairs of reading glasses that remained on the nightstand beside two thousand books with a bookmark holding place in the middle of a story that will never be finished. Two thousand families that will sit around a candle or two and two thousand prayers will be said for two thousand different people. Two thousand families will try to ignore the empty chairs at the dinner table and two thousand plates will stay untouched in the cupboard. There were two thousand men, women and children beside me. They held two thousand suitcases. There were two thousand very different lives and two thousand minds with the exact same thoughts of fear and confusion, but there were not two thousand screams and cries. There was not a sound.
There were not two thousand cells. The cells were aligned down a long, dark hallway. There were not two thousand beds. The bastilles were small and uncomfortable. A family was shown to my cell shortly after I was. The father, a cobbler from Austria smiled at me pitifully behind large, round glasses. His wife followed close behind him, a newborn child resting peacefully in her arms. Another child tugged on the end of her skirt, asking her an abundance of questions. “Regine!” The woman whispered, irritated. Were the families that were imprisoned together the lucky ones? My mother was probably walking the streets of Paris now, perhaps on her way to a cafe with her friends. My father put a pencil to his temple in the earliest hours of the day, doing finances under a dim, reading lamp. But were they lucky?
I had not tried to sleep the first night in the prison. A German guard came in to check on us.. It was odd to think he too had family and friends and thoughts and ideas. He groaned and the door slammed behind him.
Three days imprisoned and I had learned the names of many prisoners of those around me. Avi was a tall, skinny fellow that loved to read even more than I. He was placed in the cell across from me, and made me laugh daily as he badgered the women in which he shared the cell with. Long, monotonous days I spent swapping literature with Avi, and taking inspiration from Avi’s broken spines and torn pages and the men, women and children. As the prisoners finished every novel they had and every novel their neighbor had, my poems became well known in my locality. I began to spend my afternoons going from shack to shack, introducing men, women and children young and old, poor and rich, to poetry. It is times like these that bring me the most joy.

April 25, 1942 (final)
I still have hope for Benny Budny. I hope that as he is welcomed into the world of business he still remains the same goofy, young lass I grew up with. I hope he doesn’t find himself in the earliest hours of the night doing finances under a reading lamp. I hope he will still have the time to sit down with his father and argue about the politics in the newspapers, as the papers should be read.
I still have hope for the suitcase-selling-women, the Polish men who print the newspapers. Suitcases are still made in great detail at the market and every morning a different story is printed despite the circumstances of the pale, skinny men, women and children that deteriorate behind these closed doors, the living secrets that Germany has kept. I still have hope for the Baltic sea as there will never come a morning when the fishermen discover the sea is still and the waves no longer crash against the shore.
I still have hope for Regine. I still have hope for the children that will crawl into bed with their mothers not because of the monsters under their bed but the yells of German soldiers that will be memorialized their whole lives. I still have hope each child will be able to draw a line on their kitchen door frame and see that they have grown. I still have hope that Jewish children will be able to have children of their own. I have to. For without hope, there is no strength.
I still have hope for the milkman. I still have hope that one day he will knock on his front door and when his wife answers the door she will jump into his arms. I hope that she still has hope; I hope that she knows that he still says hello to everyone he greets.
I still have hope for Marthe. I still have hope that the subjects her portraits will one day reveal a smile, and Marthe will stop using all of her blue paint. I hope that I can once again meet her to play another scale, and once again all will be still but the grand piano. I hope I can hire the most skilled musicians with gold instruments and velvet suits to play her symphony, and I hope that she will accept when I ask her to dance.
I still have hope for my mother and father. I assume they are in hiding, and I refuse to imagine them anywhere but somewhere safe. I hope they do not lose hope. I hope that my mother does not weep into my father’s arms each night and I hope my father doesn’t go mad in a confined, cluttered space. I hope my mother could bring her hats with her and I hope she wears them even if she is not on the streets of Paris. I hope my father does not think that he is a failure. I hope they do not worry too much of me. I hope that I can see them again, perhaps when we are older and wiser, and I hope I can buy them a house on a beach that displays a sunset of a million colors.
I still have hope for my yellow suitcase. I watched as the soldiers scour my things, saucily stuffing my gold watch into their pocket and throwing my yellow suitcase onto my bed before shuffling to the next captive’s belongings. I still have hope that I will never pack my yellow suitcase in fear, and I will never associate yellow with sorrow. I hope my yellow suitcase will take me on a trip to the Rocky Mountains, to a sandy beach, to a successful job interview, to the Baltic sea. I still have hope I will never pack my yellow suitcase for a destination that will keep me from returning home.
I still have hope for society. I hope that these disastrous events are but a commencement of a resolution to humanity’s complication of diversity in religion and race. I hope that mankind will never have a peculiarity, that children in schoolyards will swing on swing sets next to children of different ethnicities and different faiths. I hope I never see a blonde-haired, blue-eyed world. I still have hope for Germany, that someone under Hitler’s rule is silently rooting in our favor. I like to believe our Lord is receiving prayers for us from all over the world. An African woman remembers to include everyone outside Hitler’s malevolent mold in her evening prayer. In France, a man steps out of church with tears in his eyes as the minister had mentioned his friend who was taken by the Nazis earlier in the week. An American Jew writes for a newspaper; he publishes an article on the crisis and donates to a soup kitchen later that night. He still has hope.
I still have hope for the future. I believe that once again I will rely on the sun to awaken me. I still have hope that there will be a book with my surname down the spine. My efforts are limited, but I still stay awake with my pen on paper. I have picked up a pen and will never put it down, for my achievements have been recognized by those who need it most. The caged bird hears the other caged birds sing his song. The caged bird would rather every other confined bird freed then released alone.
There was a book on a shelf in Poland with a broken spine and torn pages. There was a boy who worked late so he could spend his mornings reading this book, admiring the author’s brilliant perspective. The book was a series of poems written in Paris, a place that would soon become far too familiar to the boy. The man who sat on the park bench was not much different than the boy, but the boy would not realize until he saw a canvas colored every shade of blue. The boy would quote the man with the mustache on the park bench when the boy kissed the girl who painted blue for the last time. “No great art has ever been made without the artist having known danger.” The boy watched the girl walk away, the first time he did not walk her home since they met. Rainer Rilke sat on a park bench. I sat under a dim lit lamp and finally noted my apprehension of my given circumstance, embarrassed to have cried for the first time since I left my shelf in Poland. I had written a work of “I still have hope” and slipped it through the space in Avi’s cavity. He wakes the next morning and grins in my direction. I still have hope for Avi. I still have hope that one day he will have enough room for a desk and he will be able to spend his days writing and not worrying. I hear him recite my words to the women in his cell, who had grown unhopeful and inattentive. Avi did not nag them anymore. “Our courage is not broken, our courage is not shackled.” He paused. “Life is marvelously beautiful.” My words begin to echo through the shack’s long, dark hallway, and through illness and discomfort, through madness and sorrow, my words bring the caged birds together. The caged birds began to sing. Jewish men, women and children sing my words down the long hallway, now a scintillating beam of light. And with a sigh of considerable relief I relax, for at last, in very bold, imperative letters, I have seen my name printed down a long, dark broken spine that holds together two thousand torn, withered pages.

GUIDANCE: When your daughter asks you if you will read something, and you sigh and pause your stories and put down your laundry, while you feel around for your readers, DO IT, because you might just be surprised to learn something new you didn't know about someone you live with.

Oh, and this is my previous post about Hal. She was a sixth grader then. If you care to read up on my first born.