It’s Thanksgiving, but here in Poland it’s just a normal day. I would not even realize it but I go on Facebook and everyone is saying what they are grateful for, and I listen to Boston Public Radio and they are not broadcasting live today or tomorrow.
Today is also 55 years since the JFK assassination. I asked my Polish friend and visionary preserver/guardian/keeper/protector (am trying to figure out the right word) of Jewish memory what his first historical memory was (he was born in the 1950s) and he said the JFK assassination. He said his second was the moon landing. Even more than the expulsion of the Jews from Poland in 1968. This is something I was recently discussing with my older son. Mine is Robert Kennedy’s assassination. His was Clinton’s second election.
I lived in Israel for eleven years (twelve really, but eleven in a row) and Thanksgiving was usually just another day there as well though I think maybe once or twice the expats did something.
So what am I thankful for? Of course my wonderful children. R. with his glorious sense of humor and his boundless generosity of spirit. He is the world’s best hugger. A great writer, a great creator of metaphors. A sensitive and uproariously funny soul. He does not just take things as they are but asks why.
L. who always tries to help people, who, when he was little and someone left a jacket at a soccer game wouldn’t rest until we got it back to the person. He has the patience of a saint and always explains every little technology thing to me and to other family members. He does great accents. Being with him and R. is like being in a constant improv show. L. knows so much about so much: wine, coffee, credit cards, cell phones, plane tickets. And if he doesn’t know he’ll find out. And he’s a sharp dresser. And they both have quirky, unique takes on the world. Oh, and both those boys can cook!
I am grateful for K. and M., the loving girlfriends of R. and L. and I am grateful that the four of them get along so well. I am grateful for Melvin and Linus and that R. and K. gave them a home.
I am grateful for my brother and my parents and for all the generations who came before. I am sorry that so many were cut short too early but I am honored to be here to represent you.
I am grateful and thankful for my friends in the States and elsewhere and particularly right now in Poland, particularly my friends here who are doing the work of Jewish remembrance, who are driven to do it. In talking with my friend today he said that so much of what he does and what drives him cannot be explained by logic or rationally. It isn’t rational. And I think that’s the beauty in so much of this work. It requires a leap of faith. It has an element of love or magic or faith. If that scares you or makes you roll your eyes then maybe some what I love won’t resonate with you. But I am so thankful to those willing to take that leap of faith. My friend P., after coming on one of my Bridge To Poland trips in 2017 said one of her big take aways was the power of art to convey things that words cannot. I just listened (today) to an interview that I did with Brama Grodzka back in 2008. I only had a vague recollection of even doing the interview but in it I said that I could not yet put into words all that I had experienced in Lublin. It was too big and too deep. I said that I was not sure I would ever be able to put it into words, perhaps I would in the future, but for now I did not have the words, I just knew that returning to the city of my ancestors was a powerful experience.
In these months, in Lublin, surrounded by people dedicated to remembering those whose voices were silenced too early, and surrounded by traces and intangible memory of my forebears, I will try to find the words as I work on my book about my experience discovering Poland and discovering the beauty and the magic that was waiting here for me.