Uncertainty: Chapter Thirteen
On this white and wintery Christmas morning, Eema helped us dress for our journey by layering two of everything under our dress coats, including underwear. Eema was very specific about what to take with us. “No suitcases,” she cautioned. “It’s got to look like a day trip.”
We could each carry a small rucksack, but only if everything inside was approved by Eema. I packed a nightshirt, some toiletries, my new hairbrush, and Abba’s siddur. Eva also packed a nightshirt and toiletries, but inside her bag was a copy of “Emil and the Detectives,” and a new sketchbook with a fancy box of color pencils that Tante Ilse and Onkel Max gave her for her birthday.
“Be mindful of your coats, girls, because they are special,” warned Eema. “Your Papa and I sewed something very valuable into the lining behind every button in case of an emergency. So make sure you are wearing them at all times until you get past the Nazis.”
Abba continued the appeal, now looking directly at me. “And when you arrive in Holland, and finally meet the authorities in charge of your welfare, you will offer them two of the buttons to help pay for your living expenses. Farshteyn1?”
“Farshtanen2!” I announced, and Eva saluted.
“Gutt3! Now come give your Papa a hug until next time,” invited Abba, with opens arms.
Eva was drawn in like a powerful magnet. “But aren’t you taking us to the Bahnhof?” Eva asked during her embrace.
Abba kneeled to Eva’s level. “Sadly, there’s no room in the wagon for Mutti and me, so Onkel Max and Tante Ilse will ride in the front; you will hide in the back with Berte; and Shaina Maidel will carry the wagon to Hauptbahnhof,” outlined Abba.
“But who is going to take care of us?” asked Eva.
I was wondering the same thing, but I was too hesitant to ask.
“A representative from the Red Cross or a Jewish Services volunteer is certain to meet you in Arnhem when you arrive at the Bahnhof,” he asserted with confidence.
“But how will we ever find you in Holland?” she persisted.
“Oy gevalt! So many questions again! You’re such a nudnik5! Leave that to us. We will find you…I promise, one hundred percent. Now say goodbye to your Mamelah4.”
Eva pecked at Abba’s cheek. “I love you, and thank you for all of my early birthday surprises” she said with a squeeze.
“I love you too, my Pony,” sighed Abba.
“Look at my girls…so sheyne6 and so grown up,” gushed Eema, her hands clutching Abba’s handkerchief tightly to her chest. She was an open vessel for Eva’s embrace after Abba released her from his bear hug.
Then it was my turn to say goodbye. I didn’t think it was going to be so hard, but it was.
“I’m going to miss you more than you will ever know,” he whispered in my arms.
“Me too, Tatti,” I whispered, fighting back tears.
We lingered in our embrace. “I know it’s not fair what I’m asking, but I’m depending on you to protect your shvester,” he requested.
“I will, Abba. I promise, one hundred percent!”