A bit of leaving memory lane news is in order today. You may vaguely remember the post about a very determined Maria Madi, my great grandmother. The Story of a Teacup is a rambling combination of Condoleeza Rice wisdom and lore about World War II’s attempt to ruin a relic. The cup was buried along with the ambitions of a hopeless season. Great grandmother Madi, a physician, a mother and a staunch warrior against the odds managed to keep this brittle piece of hope safe from extinction giving us a moment of perspective in a beautiful cup.
Perhaps as a means of memory-keeping, hope-securing tenacity, she also kept a detailed journal of her days during her separation from my grandmother, Hilda. As we schlepped through the crawl space remnants this fall, we came across bound copies of this tomb. Sometimes the pace of our sorting went from clip, clip, clip to an almost audible halt, a screeching of progress to a dead stop – and finding these journals was just such a time. We knew they were up there, collecting dust and fading from legacy’s view. So when we took the lid off this special box, all sense of staying on task left our minds.
These diaries (11 in all averaging 150 pages a piece) are a salient interpretation of the political and war-torn climate of World War II. One recording incident chronicles her hiding a Jewish boy behind a looking glass while the Germans sought him out. That boy is 75 years old, resides in Atlanta and keeps in touch with my mother’s brother and only sibling, Stephen Walton.
And so as you can imagine, if you simply at random open the journal, you will be struck with the strong emotion in Maria’s sentiments. These writings capture a communication from mother to daughter of all the miles and moments separating the two. I got two feelings at once as I read; #1) the broken-hearted turmoil that so many had to endure in order to give a loved one a new dream in America and #2) a resolve that Maria sending Hilda to America to marry George and become upwardly mobile was just what a mother should do for her daughter. These are impossible positions to combine, one being almost opposite from the other. But this is the stuff of life, is it not?
Figure 1 Maria Madi
Facing the impasse of two warring heart pulses is one of truest ways I have known to come about increased wisdom – a deeper reservoir of resolve in the things of love (phileo, agape and everything in between). These journals show me that a story is not worth telling without these impossible moments.
Figure 2 Maria’s daughter, Hilda
Now for that promised news, which came in a letter to my Uncle Stephen (Barbara’s brother) received after much legwork and communication on his part down multiple channels. The letter stated the desire to have these dairies. The letter asked whether we knew why the diaries were written in English as opposed to Maria’s native tongue, Hungarian. The letter promises a digitized copy to us on the condition that we donate, not lend, this precious artifact. The letter is from the Archivist at The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (www.ushmm.org) in Washington D.C.
Good news about a cool story.
There are a million moments of ordinary gumption accumulating into extraordinary legacy. My Great Grandmother didn’t do any of these things; burying cups, hiding Jews, or capturing a season on paper so that I could write this today. She lived her life. She took the next correct action that faced her…and with enough of these choices, she created a woven tapestry of grit, intrigue, and heart.
Worth archiving? I think so.
May our ordinary moments (and, oh!, how inanely ordinary they seem) string themselves into even a teeny bit of story worth telling someday.