Powerful Pandemic Perspective

Cecile, left, the matriarch of our family.
Grandma with her youngest granddaughter.

I was intensely moved by Toby Levy’s January 3, 2021 Op Ed article in The New York Times. Apparently, so were 621 people who commented on her piece. Coincidentally, me and my niece Talia left also comments. Ms. Levy’s article reminded us of our own family’s matriarch, Cecile. My husband’s mom survived the Holocaust, as did his dad, by being shipped to Siberia with their families. Hunted every step of their journeys across Europe, their childhoods were harrowing and horrific. According to Cecile, dealing with the pandemic is isolating, lonely, worrisome, and inconvenient. But terrifying? No. Cecile is in better spirits than a lot of my contemporaries. I listen to her for perspective and wisdom, just like Ms. Levy.

A Holocaust survivor reflects on what it means to survive the pandemic.

By Toby Levy, a retired accountant and a volunteer docent for the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Jan. 3, 2021

These days, I’m a little bored.

The boardwalk is my lifesaver. I’m two blocks from the boardwalk. I can walk to Coney Island if I want to. I go alone. I have some friends here. We used to play canasta once a week. But when Covid arrived, my daughter insisted, “You can’t sit in one room!” So I talk on the phone. I read. The grandkids call in by Zoom. I also do a little bit of Zoom lecturing for the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

I keep very busy, and it helps me a lot. I am trying not to give up. But what is getting me down is that I am losing a year. And this bothers me terribly. I’m 87 years old, and I lost almost a full year.

I’m doing everything I can to stay connected, to make an impact. So even now, amid Covid, I tell my story to schools and to audiences the museum organizes for me, by Zoom.

Here’s what I say: I was born in 1933 in a small town called Chodorow, now Khodoriv, about 30 minutes by car from Lvov, now Lviv, in what was then Poland and is now Ukraine. We lived in the center of town in my grandfather’s house. The Russians occupied the town from 1939 to 1941, then the Germans from 1941 to 1944. My father was well liked in town by Jews and non-Jews. One day in early 1942, one of the guys came to him and said, “Moshe, it’s going to be a big killing. Better find a hiding place.” So my father built a place to hide in the cellar. My grandfather didn’t want to go. He was shot in the kitchen; we heard it.

Not long after that, the Germans said they were going to relocate the remaining Jews to the ghetto in Lvov, so my father and my aunt searched for someone to hide them more permanently. They found Stephanie, who had a house on the main street with a garden and a barn. She had known my parents their whole life. My father built a wall inside the barn and a hiding place for nine people, where we slept like herrings. It was just four feet by five feet. Pigs and chickens were on one side, and we were on the other: my parents, my aunt and uncle, my maternal grandmother and four children, ages 4, 6, 8 and 12.

Eventually, with the help of Stephanie’s 16-year-old son, they expanded the space a bit and added a way for the kids to look out. That is where I spent the next two years. I always think of the son when I get down, because when Stephanie was scared to keep hiding us, he insisted we stay.

We had lice. We had rats. But every day in the barn was a miracle. I’m not a regular person. I’m a miracle child. Most of the Jews of Chodorow never returned.

So when the coronavirus came, I thought, “I’m a miracle. I will make it. I have to make it.”

During the war, we didn’t know if we would make a day. I didn’t have any freedom. I couldn’t speak loudly, I couldn’t laugh, I couldn’t cry.

But now, I can feel freedom. I stay by the window and look out. The first thing I do in the morning is look out and see the world. I am alive. I have food, I go out, I go for walks, I do some shopping. And I remember: No one wants to kill me. So, still, I read. I cook a little bit. I shop a little bit. I learned the computer. I do puzzles.

I still sometimes feel that I am missing out. A full year is gone. I lost my childhood, I never had my teenage years. And now, in my old age, this is shortening my life by a year. I don’t have that many years left. The way we have lived this year means I have lost many opportunities to lecture, to tell more people my story, to let them see me and know the Holocaust happened to a real person, who stands in front of them today. It’s important.

I am scared that I am not going to be in the shape I was a year ago. When this started in March, one of my grandchildren, who lives in New Jersey, went to Maine with his wife; they never came back. They have a baby boy now, and I have only seen him on Zoom. This child will never know me. That’s a loss.

Some of what I’m missing is so simple. I have a male friend I know from synagogue. We would take a trip, if we could, by car. To anyplace! I would go to Florida. Maybe even go to Israel for a couple of weeks. But not now. So, again, this has shortened my life. That is my biggest complaint.

I understand the fear people have, and I understand you have to take care.

But there is no comparison of anxiety, of the coronavirus, to the terror I felt when I was a child. That was a fear with no boundary. This is going to end, and I am already thinking, planning where I am going first, what I will do first, when this ends.

Toby Levy for The New York Times

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Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Treasure Jars

Decorated Mason Jars.
DIY Treasure Jars

If ever I was going to post kid activities, this is the time!

I’ll be posting a bunch of ideas for the next few weeks.

Camp visiting days are an opportunity for kids to show and tell. They’re also a great source of craft ideas. I was particularly excited about the Treasure Jars so I included them in a previous Highlights article, 12 Ways to Reboot Your Summer.

For this crazy, quarantined time, why not find treasures on a hike? I see “treasures” every day when I walk Lucy. Acorns, variegated pebbles, petrified wood, leaves, new blooms and, my favorite, feathers! I’ve found blue jay and sparrow feathers, a large, wild turkey feather, and a tuft of raccoon fur! I’m always on the lookout for interesting objects and coyote pups. (Last spring, a coyote pup peeked his head out of a conduit to say hi!)

Another DIY Treasure Jar Idea? My daughter said her camp provided glow-in-the-dark paint. Turn out the lights and let  the memories shine!

Supplies:

–mason or mayonnaise jar

–any combination of stickers, pom-poms, paint, paint markers, permanent markers, colored tape and feathers

–craft glue that adheres to glass

Directions:

–Decorate jars.

–Add keepsakes such as seashells, pebbles, acorns, feathers, souvenirs, movie stubs, show stubs, etc.

–For a personalized touch, label with name and year.

Fabulous Flooring, Published in Elegant Lifestyles Magazine

How are flooring and a throat on fire related?

I learned enough researching finishes for “Fabulous Flooring, Timeless and Trending,” published in the December issue of Elegant Lifestyles Magazine, that when Hubby and I were in London, I could tell the type of distressing done on our hotel’s wide wood plank floors. I highly recommend the St. Ermin’s Hotel, which is in walking distance to Westminster Abbey, not just for the wood floors and stylish rooms, but for the service.

When I woke up in the middle of the night with my throat on fire, I knew I had strep throat. We were supposed to be touring the city that day and taking an overnight ferry to France the next, so I needed to see a doctor asap! What to do? 

The concierge was as helpful as could be! He called doctor’s offices, found one nearby, and scheduled an appointment. I was in and out with an antibiotic in hand. Amazing!

Hon, have you ever gotten sick on vacation? What did you do?

 

Alien or Ice?

Photo care of foxnews.com

Have you heard about the enormous revolving circle of ice that mysteriously appeared in the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine? Turns out there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this winter wonder. I found this Jan. 15 article by Karen Zraick in The New York Times informative and oh-so-funny!

A giant ice disk churning in a river that runs through the small city of Westbrook, Me., set off fevered speculation on Tuesday.

Was it an icy landing zone for aliens? A sign of impending doom? A carousel for ducks? (A handful were, in fact, enjoying the ride.)

The Boston Globe wrote that it was “like some type of arctic buzzsaw,” and residents hurried to the edges of the Presumpscot River to catch a glimpse.

Scientists say that ice disks are an unusual — but entirely natural — phenomenon that occurs when a pile of slush freezes in an eddy or a piece of ice breaks off from another and begins to rotate. As it turns, hitting rocks and water, the sides are shaved down.

Steven Daly, an expert in river ice hydraulics at the Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H., said his agency generally got just one or two reports of rotating ice disks in the United States each year.

They’re not usually this big, though.

Kenneth G. Libbrecht, a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., who has studied ice physics, said that most ice disks he had seen were in the 20- to 30-foot range. Local officials estimated that the Westbrook ice disk was about 300 feet across.

“It might be a world-record size, if anybody were keeping track,” Dr. Libbrecht said.

Tina Radel, the marketing and communications manager for the city, filmed a drone video after Rob Mitchell, a local business owner, alerted her to the remarkable sight on Monday. After posting it, she spent Tuesday fielding calls from reporters around the country.

It’s been an overwhelming reaction,” she said. “People are loving it.”

In fact, The Portland Press Herald noted the ice disk had Westbrook buzzing “almost as much as when city police spotted a giant snake eating a beaver in roughly the same location in June 2016.”

 TIME OUT!!  A what was doing what?! 

You can’t just go on with the article and leave this small detail hanging. I’m so distracted by the image of a giant snake eating a beaver, I’ve momentarily forgotten about the ice disk. I have so many questions: there are giant snakes in Maine? Just how giant is giant? Do snakes usually eat beavers? Were there no mice, chipmunks, take-out? Did the beaver’s family react? Did the beaver’s family continue building their dam or did they evacuate pronto? Has anyone seen the giant snake since? Were people worried for their small children and pets? Did the snake get a Twitter handle like the Short Hills Bear? (a young, male black bear eluded attempts to catch him, making him into a local celeb) Did the snake become a meme? I obviously need to more info!

Ok, I’m taking a breath…back to the ice disk…

Mr. Mitchell, who owns an air-conditioning business and another property on the riverfront, said that he, too, had never seen anything like the ice disk in 25 years in Westbrook.

He added that its size was changing — while it was bigger in the morning, it had shrunk by Tuesday afternoon, when the sun was strong and temperatures hovered in the mid-30s. (The forecast called for lower temperatures and snow later in the week.)

One constant: The ice disk kept moving, counterclockwise, at the pace of a brisk walk.

“It’s perfectly regular and uniform,” Mr. Mitchell said. “I don’t think you could engineer a machine to move it as smoothly.”

Update: Another landing spot for UFO’s/resting spot for ducks is forming. Check it out here: Giant Maine ice disk stops moving as another one forms

Highlights Article and Easy DIY Summer Treasure Jars

Decorated Mason Jars.
Decorated Mason Jars.

DIY Summer Treasure Jars

Camp visiting days are an opportunity for kids to show and tell. They’re also a great source of craft ideas. This year, I was particularly excited about the Treasure Jars so I included them in my Highlights article, 12 Ways to Reboot Your Summer. My daughter said the camp provided glow-in-the-dark paint. Turn out the lights and let summer memories shine!

Supplies:

–mason or mayonnaise jar

–any combination of stickers, pom-poms, paint, paint markers, permanent markers, colored tape and feathers

–craft glue that adheres to glass

Directions:

–Decorate jars.

–Add summer keepsakes such as seashells, souvenirs, movie stubs, show stubs, cards, letters, etc.

–For a personalized touch, label with name and year.

Party Favors or Take Home Party Activity:

How fun would these DIY Treasure Jars be as a take-home party activity for ages 8 and up? Or, decorate smaller jars, fill with candy, and hand out as party favors. Come to think of it, that’s just what I did a few months ago. Check out Quick and Easy Candy Jars to see how I carried the middle school musical, Little Shop of Horrors, theme through the candy jars. Hon, you know I love a theme!

Colorful tape, stickers, paint markers, paint, pom poms and thread were used to decorate these jars.
Colorful tape, stickers, paint markers, paint, pom poms and feathers were used to decorate these jars.