Correspondence

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: March 04, 2020

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Submitted: March 04, 2020

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From the time I enlisted and until Germany surrendered, I had my 33mm camera on a strap around my neck. When my part in war correspondence was over and I came back to America, I was desperate for meaning. My mother died a few years before the war broke out, so I had no home to call home. 

I packed my camera. I knew I had to capture something that wasn’t bombed buildings or broken bodies, so I traveled. I decided on New York. I thought I could find some answers there. I frequented the train station I’d arrived in, hoping to capture some secret insight on life. 

One day, I watched as light danced in through the tall windows. I lingered, as always, with my camera in the shadow of a ticket booth. Men and women shuffled by with newspapers folded under their arms and carrying cases of secret treasures.

I wondered what my fellow travelers had to say.

I took a few test shots. The melody of camera clicks sang, dampened by screeching train whistles and the tapping of high heels on concrete.

In the lull between arrivals and departures, an elderly woman clung to the arm of a young man. He carried a briefcase and wore a sharp suit, like he was headed for an important meeting. The woman tapped his suit sleeve to stop his pace.

“Yaakov,” the gentle old woman said in a thick accent. “Let me look at that punim!” 

“Grandmama,” Jacob said with an impatient smile. “I’ll be home before you know it.”

“I will spare you my spiel,” Jacob’s grandmother said over her glasses. “Be safe.”

Jacob nodded solemnly. “I will, bubbe.”

They stood in a sweet silence for a while and I understood. After a generation of terror in Europe, it must be difficult for a Jewish family to feel safe, even across the ocean in New York. Dozens of people passed them by, unknowing voyeurs of this intimate family moment. 

Jacob’s grandmother placed a gloved hand on her grandson’s cheek and I smiled from my shadowy corner of the train station. To witness such maternal grace was strange. Since my mother passed, I hadn’t known any nurturing feeling. 

I realized then that I hadn’t known any feeling but horror and pain since the war, and shame washed over me.

But seeing Jacob and his bubbe brought a calm serenity. My eyes stung with a bittersweet peace.

Jacob’s grandmother said something in Yiddish, like a prayer. I snapped out of my thoughts. I had forgotten what I came to do! I frantically centered my camera on the pair as the old woman dug into her purse for a handkerchief. 

I clicked my camera a few times, breathless with new purpose.

Maybe if I captured that feeling on film, I could keep it safe. 

God willing.

 


© Copyright 2020 Andrea.Standby. All rights reserved.

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