I've flown over Europe and waved from the plane and looked longingly down and thought some day I'll get there, I will. I will. I promised someone I would. When I was ten. In the meantime I've ended up in wonderful, strange, exotic places. All work related trips. I'm not complaining. But I'm explaining. OR trying to -- why now, hours from departure, I'm ready to combust. And why I'm heading to Amsterdam first on this my first ever trip to Europe.
All because of this man.
Yes, my father. My father the storytelling, poem-reciting Mountie gave me Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, when I was ten. It was an intentional choice. He knew, you see, it was time to shake me up- waken me from the idyllic world of Anne of Green Gables so I might begin to see outside our mostly waspish neighbourhood in Eastern Canada. Sure we had some Catholics and Acadians too—including my once Catholic mother, but I was naive in many ways. I had one Jewish friend in school and though I visited her home often, it never felt any different than a visit to my other friends' homes. We played tag. And dolls and Twister. Candyland.
My father wanted to show me there was another kind of reality. He knew the most powerful, perhaps the very kindest way to do that—was through books—which I devoured.
The book devastated me, split me open. It was simply the most transformative book of my life. I could relate to Anne as a girl but of course—not the situation. Like the book is for so many people, for me it was a profound encounter with otherness and evil and the spirit of love in the face of that evil. In many ways, the book marked the end of my childhood innocence.
More importantly perhaps, the book was the beginning of many conversations my father and I would have about the world and good and evil and justice and living in the shadow of horror and tragedy, of resilience and hope and how to find the light no matter the circumstance.
So I promised Anne I'd go see her house one day. That was 46 years ago. My father'd be glad Amsterdam and Anne is my first stop.
Anne Frank will never know how much and I never knew how often I'd find myself meditating on her courage and strength. How her story remains, for me, miraculously salvific.
I'll be drinking wine in Paris in a week. We'll be back before we know it.
But for now, I'm a pilgrim.
Shalom. Shalom. Shalom.
Anne, I'm almost there.