Sometimes I’m inspired to write a short story. Here is the beginning of one based on a story my mother told me about a day in 1945 during the last few months of World War II. She was four years old and escaping Berlin before it was to be decimated by bombing and invaded by enemies……
Under A Bright Blue Sky
My life so far had been a practice in shutting off. Being hungry was too much to bear and the thundering sound of bombing both day and night were just too much. We lived in Berlin, Germany, and World War II had been happening now for nearly six years. The end was near and Berlin would be taken soon. My mother and I had been walking all day. We walked and walked and walked. We were out of the city now and walking on dirt roads in the countryside outside Berlin. We stopped to pull white turnips out of the ground. We sat munching our raw turnips when I felt a wash of stillness come over me. The open space was lovely and the sky was so blue I think it was the first time I ever really noticed the sky. I was coming out of a kind of cloud. I had been in some sort of a walking coma. But now I realized just how hungry my stomach was. I was five years old.
I noticed my mother sitting beside me and asked her, “How old am I?” She looked at me and whispered, “You will be five.” She seemed so sad when she looked at me. Her heart was breaking into a thousand pieces. Then I asked her, “What’s my name?” She was on the verge of tears and could barely choke out the word “Renate.” We sat quietly. She had stopped eating and was waiting for me, the two of us sitting by green fields under that blue oblivious sky. Finally she asked, “Didn’t you know what your name was?”
I didn’t know my name. I only knew the people around me. I waited for them to tell me what to do or where to go. Much of the time we were underneath our apartment building in a cellar listening to the roaring of planes and the thunder of bombs. My cousin Sonchen was always with me, but we were both scared and stayed close to our mothers. Now my mother and I were walking somewhere on a dirt road to my grandparent’s house, a place we had always gone to before by train. My grandparents lived in the country with the ducks and frogs who lived in the river next to their home. It would be quiet there and I would play with my cousin Sonchen in the river. Things were looking up. The beautiful fields stretched out in front of us, promising us more as we walked forward into our future. It fed my eyes even while my stomach ached for more food.
My mother began to slow down. The road led to several other roads, each going in a separate direction. I looked at my mother. She seemed stuck in one position, a statue just staring straight ahead at the dissecting road ahead of us. She didn’t know which road to take. We were lost. I watched in terror as she fell to her knees and began to sob uncontrollably. The familiar fear I knew so well snapped at me. I retreated back into the fog that enveloped my soul. The beauty around us didn’t seem to matter anymore.
Note: My mother and grandmother made it to their destination that day (my great-grandparent’s home in Spreewald). My mother turned five years old on May 7, 1945. The next day, the war was over. They returned to Berlin a year or so later. The only building on their block (in Schöenberg) that had been bombed was theirs. The glassware my grandmother had stored in the cellar for safe-keeping before they left was melted into one long tube of glass.