I’m breaking a cardinal rule. The students are rehearsing and I’m completely outside of myself and the stage and the history that lives in a mobius. Right now, Mr. Dussel is angry about Peter smashing the lamp. Carl from Utrecht is demanding more money, a hint of blackmail. Margot wants the end.
And me? I’m sitting with my knees bumping into the table, the muscles behind my knee caps tightening, cramping, and living in this momentary isolation. I am in the 21st Century watching a living, breathing 20th Century tragedy.
72 years ago, Anne was in Bergen Belsen. The date of her death is unknown. She died within days of her older sister, Margot. Historians know that it was in February. February.
I hate February. This long month in short, clinched days when the sun is hidden behind clouds that are saturated with water that falls in heavy, cold droplets which sink behind my collar and slip down my back, sending long chills throughout my body. I hate February with viscous nights and grey sunshine and spring an edge away but far enough that birdsong seems lamenting and it’s just….
I haven’t been writing. Weariness. Two weeks of interrupted sleep that feels like insomnia but is nothing more than dreams broken by a puppy who sleeps next to my chest and has brought back kinetic memories of early motherhood when my children slept wedged between my husband and me. I fret when the room is cold. I fret when the room is too warm. I fret because the puppy pressing her body into my chest pulls me out of my sleep and I’m trying to make sure that the baby….
The babies are twelve and fifteen. They don’t need me as much anymore. They don’t need Mommy to tuck the blankets around the mattress because any gaps in the blanket borders would enable monsters to creep out from under the bed and grab their ankles, drag them into a hellish landscape.
Today, as I drove into work, the luminescent clouds were a coral reef in the sky. The children were silent, almost drooling on themselves in a somnolent stupor. NPR droned on about yesterday’s stock market rise? Fall? I don’t even know. I wasn’t really listening. I was staring at the clouds’ ribs diminishing as the sun rose higher past the horizon and the light evaporated back into a sterile grey.
But what I continually remember about The Diary of Anne Frank, play or original diary, is that hope has more strength than hate. Love has more power than hate. Compassion and forgiveness outweigh animosity and unkindness.
Sitting here in a semi-darkened room, it’s easy to let the pressures of life become over-whelming. I am horribly behind on my grading. Everytime I choose to set aside hours to grade, something happens that requires my attention. Last night, even before I had managed to put both feet into my house, both my husband and daughter were demanding my attention, making requests of my time.
Good-bye grading time.
Tonight, I will be meeting with my mother-in-law so that some new pants can be hemmed to match my short legs. Tomorrow? I am being interviewed by students for a 9/11 documentary. Thursday is tutoring day. Friday? I don’t know. Something will likely occur.
But tomorrow at the conclusion of rehearsal, we will be toasting Anne Frank. Seventy two years ago, Anne died alone and cold in a February in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. She had been receiving packages literally tossed over the electrified fence from a friend. She was trying to survive, but (I think) Margot’s death was Anne’s final fraying moment on her fate’s string.
It was cut. Her voice became a transparent memory that lives in ink blots and binary code.
But it still haunts me. I read the play thirty-three years ago. I read her original diary around the same time. I didn’t understand her then, didn’t understand the world’s veneration of this young writer.
In the last year, though, from the moment when my colleague and I decided that we needed to produce the dramatic version of The Diary of Anne Frank, I have been re-reading her diary. I have spent hours on the Anne Frank House website. I have dreamt about her, dreamt about travelling to Auschwitz, dreamt about hiding my children in lockers just outside the gas chambers.
I think, in some way, I am making peace with Anne Frank, making peace with my February self. Tomorrow, I will drive through the cold morning hours with several bottles of sparking apple cider in my car. Tomorrow, I will be pouring out a small amount for each actor, for each crew member, for each person. Tomorrow, we will lift our glasses to Anne Frank, to her shattered sixteen year-old self who lives in perpetuity as an adolescent whose dreams were achieved but never lived.
I need to take a hammer to my February self. Push away the fatigue that hangs like a vestigial exoskeleton. I ran 13 miles last week, walked 14 miles last Sunday. Spring is there, on the coral ribbed edge of the sky.
March approaches. But, for now, it’s February. It’s February. It’s February, and all is well.