Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Piece of Charcoal to Write with in Her Diary

What my students remember is that Anne Frank's Diary was the second best-selling book until Harry Potter.

This we also learned from the Living Voices presentation yesterday: That Anne had a friend who give her a piece of charcoal to write with in her diary. A friend who perceived Anne as a writer. A friend who knew that to write was how Anne saved herself. A friend from the time, before hiding, when the two girls made art together in the park beneath the trees.

In their reflections my college students consider the story of Anne Frank through the lens of their own young lives....and well they should. And for me, it's also the story of the surviving father that I will read about--how one goes on.

....95-year old Ann Camijend, my former neighbor in Redwood City, California, lost her son last Monday. My mother lives a few houses down and remains Ann's friend through raising children, the ups and downs of retirement and their husbands' illnesses.

For close to sixty years they've lived on St. Francis Street. Mom, always there for her friends, checks in with Ann who doesn't drive and takes her shopping and helps bank deposits and making out the monthly checks to pay the bills.

This week Mom's watching the house while Ann flies to New Mexico to attend the funeral. Before leaving Ann visits her husband in the nursing home where he's been a resident for ten years. He uses a wheelchair and has pneumonia. Mom says Ann will decide when to tell him about Joey. What is it to keep back the news, bear it alone, decide what can be born by another?

I try to imagine what Anne Frank would have written had she been able to keep her journal with her after the Nazi soldiers discovered her family. Would the diary have been burned, or thrown into a pile, as objects were at the camp, and lost to us? As the true account reveals, her diary was left behind and found on the floor months later amidst Anne's other writings, for she also wrote poems and plays and essays.

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