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Cones Bring back Memories

 We were "floating" down the rivers of Europe on a lovely cruise that one of us needed to make. We agreed that I could stay on board, if we "floated" past a country I did not want to visit and it worked quite well. We were with good friends and the L&M* went off with them while I stayed on board. I think I was the only one there. The bartender became a friend and kept me supplied with gin while I wrote this story.

One night, we came down to dinner and the tables, especially the big buffet one, were all decorated with pinecones. I just stood there, transfixed. My friend asked me what was going on with me? What was wrong? She said that I looked stunned and white. I told her that I was fine; but after dinner I told her why the cones affected me that way. The next day we "parked" at some town in a country I did not want to set foot in and I stayed on board - it was probably Germany or Austria. The bartender again came to my rescue, and provided me with "sustenance"!

My friend came back with two small perfect pine cones for me.

The other day, a friend sent us a beautiful card for the holidays. I saw pine cones in it, but apparently I was way out, as they were actually fire works! I'm still not too sure what the card represents, but, for me, they are cones and as such again brought back memories from way back. I have pine cones all over my house - big ones, bigger ones, tiny little ones … they all bring me back to WW2. One does try not to forget, but one tries to let it hurt less. One thinks that in old age we would have learned to live with certain things, but NO WAY, as the young ones say today. It's just as painful - and just as vivid - as it was so many years ago.

So, here it is: one of the "stories". And, yes, it took place during WW2. We were escaping from Poland to Hungary; walking at night, resting during the day. It was very well organized by the forest rangers and they were our guides. But one border we could not cross walking - we had to take a train, and we could not go together; a family on a train would be pounced on whichever country they were passing through. So we had to split up - my father took my oldest sister on one train, my mother took the youngest on a different train, and I was the middle one, nine years old at the time, and was told to go with my "grandmother", an old lady who was bribed to take me over the border. I did not speak her language, she did not speak mine; so it was decided that I would act as if I was a deaf-mute. If all went well, we would all meet at a certain house on the other side of the border we were crossing, and continue together from there.

I was very frightened to go alone with that strange woman and not be able to communicate with her. I was very good at pretending to love my grandmother when the police arrived and I tried to answer them with my hands when they asked me a question. Her answers apparently were good, because they saluted and left us alone. We arrived at a station, and she beckoned me to follow her. I did, and we walked a short distance to a house; she had the key, and let us in; it was deserted. We were the first ones to arrive. With gestures she managed to convey to me that she must leave, and I must stay...stay? Alone? In this empty house? But, by the time I wanted to detain her, she was gone. And so, there I was, alone in an empty house, praying that my parents would make it over the border, and come for me.

As I stood in a room, in that empty house, bewildered that I was all alone, I heard a thud. For the first time, I looked around. I was in an empty room with a large window and a chair; that was all ... one chair. I heard another thud, and realized that it came from the outside. I went to the window and saw a huge pine tree, full of cones; the "thuds" were cones falling off the tree. I took the chair, placed it at the window, sat down and looked at that glorious tree ... and started to pray. If the tree could hold on to her cones, my parents would turn up and I would be safe, but IF she lost all her cones and I was still there ...

I did not want to think about that. I do not know how long I set there praying for the tree to hold on to her cones. Every time there was a thud my heart skipped a beat, but I kept praying and waiting. There were quite a few cones still left on the tree when suddenly the door burst open and my parents rushed into the room! And, yes, we all made it …

*Lord and master

 

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Monday, 20 September 2021

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