Monday, April 12, 2010

The Holocaust remembered in Providence and Susie goes to Mulhouse

First up the French side of the update.

Last Friday Susie finished two weeks of language classes at Alliance Francais on Boulevard Raspail. Believe me, this is an altogether different breed of cat from the AF program taught in Providence. Nearly all of the students in Susie's class are struggling up the language ladder so they can attend school in Paris.

Anyway, Susie struck up a conversation with one of her classmates, a young woman from Milan who hopes to attend Le Cordon Bleu and was thrilled when she heard that Susan had gone there just several years  (a lifetime) ago.  So Susie plans to call her when she gets back from Mulhouse and they'll get together for coffee and the prospective culinary student can fire away with her questions.

Speaking of Mulhouse -- which I was -- Susie took a mid-afternoon train yesterday, Sunday, to visit her friend Misato who works in a pastry shop in Mulhouse, just south of Strasbourg. They had become fast friends when both worked together at Pascal Pineauds pastry shop on rue Monge in Paris. (photo above) I'm informed that the trip went well and Susie arrived safe, sound and refreshed. This morning Misato fixed a  breakfast of Japanese rice, fried egg, salad, orange segments and tea. Today they're off to visit Chez Jacque, where Misato works -- last evening they had a rhubarb tart from the shop that "was pretty darn good."

More to come of this take I'm sure.

As for me my week was quiet, work was good, generally better than I could hope in fact. After all, I'm doing what I like and getting paid for it. Eyes are fixed on Brittany, unless Italy can get their act together on high-speed internet access for everyone within the next two years. . .

While Susie was training east toward Alsace and Mulhouse, I headed over to the eastern side of Providence and Temple Emanu-el. Earlier in the week I had come across a story about a collection of letters that had been found in 1997 during the demolition of an old house in Amsterdam. They had written been by a young 17-year-old boy, Philip "Flip" Slier to his parents who then lived in Amsterdam, while he was in a forced labor camp in the Netherlands. His parents hid the letters in two bundles in in the attic before they were rounded up and shipped off to the death camps in the east, where they perished along with millions of others, including their son "Flip."

The letters came into the possession of a family member, Deborah Slier, who, along with her partner, Ian Shine recently published these very touching scraps of memory from the young life life long gone. During the service commemorating the loss suffered during the Holocaust, excerpts of the letters were read by students from the Holocaust Studies class at Providence College. Afterward three women read the names of all the families in Rhode Island who had lost loved ones during the Holocaust.

Inspiring, powerful and yet incredibly bittersweet in the bargain.

After the service I stepped out into the warmth of the late afternoon sunshine. While I held my memorial candle, I stood on the steps of the temple embraced by a sense of amazement of what I had just witnessed: a reaffirmation of life through remembering of loved ones long dead, gone down to the dust of time; I was in awe of  the strength of character and the depth of loss suffered. The connections to the past were vividly alive and palpable enough to almost reach out and touch those men, women and children now so very long gone.

A few minutes later I found myself in the car,  heading north up Route 146 toward Douglas, MA, and a quiet dinner with Dick and Dorothy -- delicious Chicken Marsala, rice and broccoli. Connection to family and the past, one and the same time.

A Sunday to be savored indeed.

Stay well, keep calm and have a wonderful spring/primavera!!

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