International Holocaust Remembrance Day was observed last Thursday, January 28th, with interviews and stories shared across many media platforms. As I listened to the poignant tales of loss and survival, one theme kept repeating itself over and over—the appreciation for life’s everyday experiences most of us take for granted. Even something as basic as taking a bite of saltine cracker or drinking a cup of clean water can be a sacred experience if you’re starving.
Of those still living, who bear witness to the atrocities of the Hitler regime’s systematic attempt to erase Jews and “undesirables” that included dissidents, gypsies, Jehovah’s witnesses, and members of the LGBT community from Europe, their very survival was a precious gift. Nothing again could be taken for granted. Life, and all its experiences large and small, is to be savored and appreciated.
It’s a lesson we can all learn from in a time when so many are divided in their political views and our planet’s rising temperatures are raising havoc with weather patterns and food production.
One of the newspaper headlines I read this morning said, “Blizzard Spreads Misery Up and Down the Eastern Seaboard.” My eyes fixated on the word “misery.” Here in Annapolis, Maryland we got a few inches of snow. but despite the necessity for an extra layer of clothes, I was grateful. The walk brought back memories of times twenty years ago when our children were young and one or two winter snowstorms here in Maryland were to be expected. Schools would be closed, maybe we might lose power for a day, and we’d break the monotony of cabin fever with a walk downtown to get a coffee or early dinner.
Losing power for days, doing without heat, unable to have access to needed medicines or medical care—that could be a misery. But because we haven’t had more than a dusting of snow for several years, I am taking pleasure in this small snow storm.
Admittedly one of my favorite childhood memories is a blizzard that hit Baltimore when I was approximately five years old and did knock out the power in our Mt. Washington neighborhood for a day or two. My memory is brief. I remember sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace wrapped up in a wool afghan knit by an aunt or great grandmother. The orange glow of the fire was the only light in the dark house. My father decided that we would all hike in the snow to the nearest bus stop because he’d heard the buses were running, and make our way to a restaurant to have hot food. I ran to the closet to find my snow suit and galoshes. An excursion to a restaurant was something reserved for special occasions.
A walk in the high snow with the entire family. (My dad probably carried me part of the way.) A bus ride at night. Dinner at the famous Pimlico Hotel on Park Heights Avenue. ( The restaurant eventually moved to Pikesville and closed in 1991.) I still remember the taste of the lean spare ribs flavored with what I speculate was akin to Hoisin sauce. I gnawed at that bone, savoring every morsel, and slept soundly that night.
What other things that we take for granted are slowly becoming unattainable? The Pandemic and travel restrictions have limited our ability to confidently visit with family and friends. Each time I plan a visit or consider a social event, I weigh the health risks. Too crowded a venue or recent exposure to someone who might be carrying the virus causes me to ere on the side of caution and stay home. Like many, I long for the virus to be “under control”. So when I do socialize or go out, it’s that much more special.
Glaciers are melting and eventually polar bears will be extinct if the global warming process continues. We may not be able to reverse the damage that has been done, but in the moment we can still appreciate what is left. I treasure the feeling of crunching snow beneath my boots despite my worries about slipping on the ice. Winters are growing shorter.
I try to choose behavior that helps one another and our futures, because nothing can be taken for granted.
Follow me on Twitter at SN Maril. Read my short story Red Roses in the Winter issue of Thimble Literary Magazine.