This week marks the Days of Remembrance, an annual program of the US Holocaust Museum. It is of course in the service of ensuring that we never forget. President Obama, the first president to ever host a White House seder, is not forgetting. He was at the Capitol Rotunda at 11am eastern this morning. He is helping us all to remember.
We never forget at our house. All we have to do is think about the names of our three children, each a gift from relatives we've never met. Or seen. There is not a single photograph.
All we have to do is think about Eileen's mom and dad. Both gone now but survivors. More than that. Neither simply survived. They made a life for themselves here -- by all measures a successful one. And of course they brought us my partner Eileen.
Our fourteen year old twins just returned from a school trip to DC. It was a great trip and President Obama was even nice enough to be home when we visited his home.
Our trip included several hours at the Holocaust Museum. While a few parents waited out front for the kids to arrive from the hostel, we were moved out of the way briefly by a security guard and his bomb sniffing dog. Turns out it was only a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the unmarked bag. My friend Kristen loves dogs and started a conversation about the dogs. Turns out, much to Kristen's surprise, that there are 5 of them at the Holocaust Museum. All the time. And that the Holocaust Museum handles more threats than any other museum in the district.
It was at that moment that 24 kids arrived. The spell of that moment was momentarily lost. But the operative word is momentary.
I often joke that Ben and Kit look like they could have just walked off the set of Fiddler on the Roof. They are beautiful with dark hair with the most beautiful big brown eyes. Unlike their older sister who is lighter and could "'pass" for a "shiksa," there is no "passing" for Ben and Kit. They are Jewish adolescents.
I had been to the Museum before. With their older sister Scout. I don't think we talked for hours afterwards (this quite an accomplishment from the two of us). We lingered at any photo of the Lodz ghetto, looking for someone who might have been Nana at age 17. We scoured lists for Nana's hometown of Zdunska Wola on walls listing the decimated communities throughout Poland.
And what Scout and I took away was no sighting of Nana. Just hundreds and hundreds of photos of young Jewish adolescents -- in ghettos, in camps, at liberation -- each one bearing an uncanny and disturbing resemblance to Ben and Kit.
At the end of the tour, Kit (I know you are thinking that Kit doesn't sound Jewish. Bingo. She is named after my Irish grandmother Kitty Conlon. Her middle name honors one of her many aunts and uncles lost to us) and I lit candles in the Hall of Remembrance. We asked the guard if we could light more than one. For Mania and Ben, for Sarah and Zelig, for Pola, for Ruchle, for Alta and Hesh. As we lit the candles, I said the names out loud. To remember.
Before we left the room, I lit two more. One for the nameless young boys and one for the nameless young girls -- each one beautiful. With dark hair and the most beautiful brown eyes.
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