I read “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” many times. I took the story to heart and hoped to someday visit the secret annex where Anne spent two years of her life before she perished in a Nazi concentration camp. A few years ago my wish came true when my husband and I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. As we stood in line to enter we spoke quietly with others from various countries; our lives had all been touched by Anne’s story.
Do young girls still read this book and feel the connection to her? Do teachers assign it and librarians recommend it? I hope so. Through this book, young people get a sense of what it was like to be persecuted for being Jewish in Europe during World War II.
Another person in the book who made a big impression on me was Miep Gies. She was one of a few people who brought food and sustenance to the group in hiding, choosing to risk their own lives by doing so. Miep was Anne’s friend and lifeline. A few years ago, I was excited to see that an elderly woman being interviewed on television was Miep Gies, still alive and telling the story of what happened so many years ago. Miep said she was not a hero, but I respectfully disagree. She helped to show the world what an individual could do; her life influenced young people who read about her actions and her kindness. She was a role model above and beyond the usual meaning of the term.
Sometimes we get reminders that the horrors of World War II are not that far away in time or place. Miep Gies passed away yesterday. Farewell to Anne’s extraordinary friend, a brave woman.
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I have always been a big fan of Julia Child. She is truly inspiring for having influenced the way Americans not only cook, but think about food. An article about Julia in the current (August 2009) issue of Vanity Fair magazine made me appreciate the impact she has had on so many of us.
I watched her on public television, not only in her later years – she hosted other chefs on her show in the 1990’s – but earlier too, when I was still at home growing up in the 1960’s. I remember my mother making beef bourguignon in that era. Some of Julia’s techniques must have rubbed off on me too. Today I like to create dishes with a roux base, and sometimes I cook with wine (a little for the pot, a little for me).
Julia’s life story is fascinating. During World War II she worked for the O.S.S. (which later became the C.I.A.) She had her own midlife transformation: she learned French cooking in her late 30’s, worked on the classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking in her 40’s, and started teaching the masses on her first PBS television show at age 49.
By the way, according to Laura Jacobs’ article in Vanity Fair, Julia loved the 1978 Saturday Night Live spoof of her starring Dan Ackroyd. I laughed until I cried the first time I saw that skit, and still crack up during the many times it has aired since then. Now I am looking forward to a new movie, Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep as Julia Child, due out next month. In the meantime, to quote Julia, “Bon Appetit!”
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Today is Mother’s Day, and we are celebrating Moms of all ages and varieties. I am fortunate enough to have a Mom, a Grandma, and a Mother-in-law, all of whom I plan to spend time with, honoring them on their day. A shout out to these wonderful women!
I want to venture a little further on this subject, and honor those who aren’t a Mom, or who no longer have a Mother with them in this life. I am talking about people who may find Mother’s Day to be bittersweet or difficult to handle; for instance, women who don’t have children and children who have lost their Mother.
If we have learned anything in the past several years, it is that families are diverse. Many are not the Dad-Mom-kids kind dominant in popular culture when I was growing up. (Actually, there were plenty of families who were non-traditional then too, but they were not as visible in that era.) Now we are quicker to recognize that in addition to Mothers, there are others (including step-parents, men raising children, and other family members and friends) playing nurturing roles in non-traditional ways. And there are children who, for various reasons, miss having their Mom in their lives.
As a mature woman who never had children, I will not be receiving any Mother’s Day cards or gifts. (Although my wonderful Aunt gave three of us non-Moms a cute singing-and-dancing stuffed animal toy at our Mother’s Day brunch a couple of years ago.) I am not whining; I’m a big girl, and I can handle it. However, I have empathy for women whose children are gone or not able to celebrate with them, and for women who desperately want children but have not conceived, and for children of all ages who have lost their Mothers.
This day rightfully belongs to the Mothers who raised or are raising children, and the gifts they provide, and the sacrifices they make, on behalf of their children. But there are others out there who deserve recognition too – give them a hug!
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