Tag Archives: True Stories

Plans Not Fulfilled

Standard
They made plans for the holiday
Their respective children far away
Each left alone, they turned to their common bond
Of husbands long since gone
Of phone calls and lunches
Of shopping trips and excuses
Of growing older
 
Then one passes away
A month before the plan was to be engaged
And the one, who was already bereaving,
Bereaves anew, alone
And there is no communication
And there is no plan, anymore
 
What does she think, on this day?
What is she feeling deep inside?
What is the sorrow she is feeling…
For herself, her friend, or both?
 
They made plans for the holiday
So they would not be alone
 
 
 
 
 

Yesterday, Memories (non-fiction)

Standard

In Memory
1926-2012

My mother passed away on October 14th, 2012. One major reason I haven’t been writing, or that my meager attempts have been sombre. My father died on October 15th, 1999, which has still sent shivers through me, that they parted this earth one calendar day apart (although thirteen years passed).

It’s Halloween, a holiday she did enjoy, seeing all the children in their costumes, playing like she was afraid of the “scary” ones, cooing over the very cute tots and babies coming out for their first Trick or Treating, and giving out bags of candy (each bag had to be the same, piece by piece, number by number, so she felt no child felt cheated).  It’s been one of my favorite holidays as well…not so much this year.

She was “known” in our family as the “family historian,” being able to recall all the family stories, connections, etc. This she did orally, rarely writing anything down. Which is a shame: those stories now only reside in the memories of those who listened, and if we don’t write them down, they’ll be gone.

I did find her beginning attempts to write some of the history down, colored through her lens. I’m posting it here where I normally write my own fiction. Not sure when/if I’ll really come back to this blog with any real attention. I hope you enjoy her early memories.

Yesterday, Memories…by

Edith A. Nager: 1926-2012

(1)          My mother and father met and married in Odessa, Russia. Papa had served in the Russian Army for five years and then was discharged. I have a picture of him in his uniform. He was quite dashing. He came to America first and then sent for my mother. This was before the First World War

(2)          The day I was born my father declared it a holiday. He kept my three oldest brothers home from school. The other two were too young for school. There were five boys and now me. The truant officer came to the house and asked why they were home, and Papa said: “After five boys, a girl was born!” That fine gentleman stayed and helped Papa celebrate.

                Mama said, and I quote her: “This is it! If it’s another boy, no more!” Papa ran through the building knocking on doors to tell them the good news. He finally had a daughter.

 

(3)          Saturdays, my mother did not cook. Papa said it was Mama’s time off. He went to the kosher deli and bought Pastrami, Corned Beef, Specials (knockwursts), Salami, Knobelwurst (very garlicky salami), and rye bread. The mustard came in paper cones. Oh my, how delicious it all was. Mama made the potato salad.

                Saturday evening after sundown was the time to turn on the radio and listen to station WEVD. It was Jewish music and singing. It was OK, but Sunday morning was better. Same station, but it was all about “Troubles of People” and “The Bintel Brief,” as well as more music and singing.

                The “Troubles of People” were some of the saddest tales you could hear. Husbands came to the Promised Land first and became Americanized. They met other women, forgetting about the wives and children back home. Sometimes it was a three hankie story.

 

(4)          Sunday brunch was out of this world. Bagels, bialys, pumpernickel bread, sweet butter, cream cheese, Muenster & farmer cheese; Belly lox, a large smoked white fish, and pickled herring in cream sauce with onions. Of course, a large salad: lettuce, tomato, cucumber, radishes and green pepper. We ate and talked. Everyone showed up for this feast. My brothers: Lou, Phil, Ezra, Sam, Bernie and me…and of course, Mama and Papa.

 

(5)          My brother Bernie gave me a lot of grief. He was the youngest of the boys. He used to tell me I smelled like a flower: it was called a stink weed. One day, he came home from school and went to the medicine cabinet. He took out a box of Feenamint. He got a box of Chicklet’s Gum and replaced it with the laxative. Some of the boys in school were giving him a hard time, so he got even. They never bothered him again. We gave him a new name: we called him “Dr. Fleckel.”

 

(6)          Walking with a group of girls and boys along the Gran Concourse to Fordham Road you could window shop. The stores stayed open till 9:00 p.m. We went to Rushmyers on University Avenue for Ice Cream in the summer and hot chocolate in the winter. We’d also go to 161st Street to Addie Valin’s and the Roxey Deli.

                Trolley cars in the summer, the sides were heavy metal mesh so you would feel cool. It cost five cents each way and some of us would take a ride in the evening. We went all the way to Throgs Neck and back. This was before A.C.

Only God Knows

Standard

The train ride to the camp.

Imagine: it is winter and we’ve been left with very little. No Food. No Water. The clothes on our backs.  We are shoved into an unheated cattle car; its side’s are not solid but open slats, so the wind whistles through, and the only warmth we get comes from the bodies pressed against us. We are shoved in with enough people so that we can barely breathe, let alone sit or move.

We have no food or water on the first day. Maybe one loaf of bread or two is tossed into the car on the second day; and still no water. If we are shoved against one of the walls it is a good thing, because we can at least scoop some of the falling snow. As it melts in the mouth it keeps us alive while others around us die. The Nazi guards yell to those alive to toss out the bodies, the few times the train stops.

With less and less people in the car…you can finally sit or you can lie down and we are sad and glad and numb all at the same time. The fear is ever present and if it seems like hell is here then yes, you are right. It is.

Finally, the train ride stops…for the last time. Everyone is herded off the car. Everyone is relieved of whatever possessions they have left. Everyone is sectioned off, split into three groups: the women, the men, and then the third group which comprised the elderly, the infirmed and the children. They went in, to die. Whether they knew this or not, I can not say. The only thing I know is that my father wound up on the line of men that didn’t.

They were led to where their clothing was taken away. They were hosed down and deloused, all bodily hair shaved off.

Dehumanized.

Thus began their nightmare of existence in Auschwitz.

*************************************************************************

The above is a section from my play “everywhere I look…” I posted the song that I wrote that started the whole ten year journey of writing here. This part, the train ride, is a re-imagined, but true, story that my father told me. So, yes, whatever horror might be in your mind is from reality by way of some artistic license. The details, sad to say, are real.

My father was in Auschwitz and had the tattoo to prove it. What most people don’t know is that tattooing of the prisoners was specific to Auschwitz, not all the concentration camps. My dad was in Auschwitz II (Auschwitz-Birkenau). He was there for THREE YEARS. I only know some of what went on during that time period.

He escaped on the Death March, with the man who essentially saved his life.   That is a story unto itself and is a part of my play, as is the song and the train piece.

The pic to the right is of my dad, after the American Liberation. We don’t know how much longer, but it had to be substantial in that his hair was back and he looks healthy and well fed in this photo. He worked, at this point, as a translator and driver for an American general. Due to the three years in the camps, he spoke six or seven languages.

Why did this all happen?

Only God knows.

If you’re interested in bookings, or can pass this onto a location (College; High School; Theater; etc),  please contact me at stuart.nager@gmail.com.

This Is My Father Speaking (…everywhere I look…)

Standard
Everywhere I look…it’s Nazi, Germany.
Everywhere I look…it’s…
 
Be careful where you walk now
Be careful where you tread
The dead are down below us
Tons of earth upon their heads
 
Be careful what you say
Where you look or how you sigh
Stay silent in your prayers
Today again they passed you by
 
And the children couldn’t cry out
As the adults closed their eyes
Whether gas or guns
What did it matter?
The dead they are disguised
 
I know, I know
For the heaps that went to hide them
Were piled on by my hands
My sweat mixed with the earth,
to make this travesty of man
 
I know, I know
That their wails were also for me
As I worked so ever harder
To be left alive…to survive
To hide my shame
 
Surrounded by the hardened, the criminal
and the strong
Each day’s survival for me then
Meant another in the hole
Another hundred in the hole
Another thousand in the hole…
 
And the children couldn’t cry out
As the adults closed their eyes
Whether gas or guns
It just didn’t matter
The dead…so many…are disguised
 
Everywhere I look, it’s Nazi, Germany
Everywhere I look, it’s…
Everywhere I look…
It’s………………………..
*******************************************************************************
To listen to the music that accompanies the above lyrics: everywhere I look
Lyrics and Music (c) by Stuart Nager
“everywhere I look…” Logo by Chuck Davis

I wrote the above in early fall of 1997. My father had almost died and was in the hospital. He was a concentration camp survivor (Auschwitz), and his mental scars were always there. He said this to me: “Don’t you see? Everywhere I look, it’s Nazi, Germany.” I’m not going into the full context of this here (you’ll have to come see my play based on all this “everywhere I look…”). I did go home soon after that, and wrote those lyrics.

They went into the drawer, were taken out every now and then, and I had the music in my head from the get go. I don’t play a musical instrument, so I had musicians help me out (Thank you, Josh, Chris & Natty) to transcribe what I heard inside.

Over the years, I started to write a play around the song, dealing with true stories of what I knew of my dad, and my stories of bigotry and mass hatred that continue today. I finally “finished” the play in 2007, pushed along as I achieved my Masters in Oral Traditions. It was performed in NYC in 2010 and I am still shopping the play around to perform it elsewhere. Please contact me for more information.

Getting to know me, getting to know about….

Standard

Java at Never Growing Old hosts this meme, so that we can discover a little more about the small, little things that make us who we are- real people, instead of just names and images on a screen. I was sent this(?) by Pencil Girl of Get Your Feet Wet; Give them a try when you can. I thought I’d join in:

The questions for this week are..

1. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?
2. What is your favorite color Rose?
3. Do you remove your shoes when you walk into your home?
4. What is your favorite season?
5. Approximately how many hours a day do you spend blogging?

1. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?

Normally a smooth fan, lately I’ve been going for crunchy. I don’t eat it all that often anymore. It’s an indecisive thing, really. When I’m at the market and going to buy some, it’s whatvever my taste bud mood is for that time.  Yes, I’m ambidextrous r in the PB aisle. Now, if you had asked about candy….

2. What is your favorite color Rose?

I would have said Red Sweetheart Roses…

Until I saw these:

3. Do you remove your shoes when you walk into your home?

No, but I have been to homes where they do. They are soon very sorry they asked me. 🙂

4. What is your favorite season?

Late Fall/Early Winter. The colors, the cool and crisp air, snuggling, first snow… yeah..favorite time of the year.

5. Approximately how many hours a day do you spend blogging?

I write two blogs a day (just about): this one and Born Storyteller. Maybe two plus hours? I’ve never really timed it. Sometimes I’ll start one, let it sit and save the draft. I’m on the computer way too much. That’s for sure.

So..that’s about it. Java has a linky thing set up on her blog for this. I mentioned  Pencil Girl in hopes you visit her as well. IF you decide to do this for you blog, please mention Java’s site and this one. Thanks. More stories to come.

From A to Z: another blog challenge: A

Standard

Yes, I am looking at from Zero to 57 spanning the month of April 2011. From hating the idea of blogs and such, to finding (1) it makes me write and (2) I find the use in restarting my freelance creative life a plus. I’ll also have two weeks of downtime later in the month (schools on Spring Break), so it’s good for mental health as well.

The reason for 57 above? In the month of April, between this blog (for the writer/ storyteller part of me) and my more Teaching Artist/performance blog BornStoryteller, I will be writing a total of 57 blogs: 26 here (one for each letter of the alphabet) and 31 on BornStoryteller, one for each day of the month. Will I do it? Will I forget and drive myself crazy…well, crazier? May 1st will tell the tale.  Not even sure how I’ll use this yet: just stories; poetry/song lyrics; journaling; true stories; just not really sure what.

So…the letter A: Alexandra

Alexandra was one of those that got away, that I long for now, knowing if we really gave it a shot..I would still have no idea how it would have turned out. Got away, ran away, pushed away, never really was in the way? As above, not really sure, now. Infatuated? Definitely. Love, yes, but still never sure how much. Intrigued by and pulled towards and maddened by and longed for and lusted for…yes, yes, yes, yes..and, oh, yes.

One summer night…Alex was off to the wilds of New England to spend a good part of the summer at a camp. Musically gifted, this was her world she was entering, one specifically for those with real talent and passion, of which she had in full. Gone already for a week or two, this young lady I talked to often, saw not as often as liked, was MIA.

Around 11pm, just off an ice cream binge with my friend Sam (who, btw, introduced me to Alexandra..Alex..Ai) and I were leaving the Howard Johnson’s. Bored, awake, and both of us antsy, we decided then and there to get in the car, drive up to the New England camp and find her. Now, this was way before cell phones, GPS, or all that. We had a map, a name, and some money in our pockets. Off we went.

The drive up was uneventful. Sam & I did our usual talking, goofed around, sang badly to the songs on the radio, got lost a few times, but never once did we talk about what we would do when we got to the camp. That discussion came later.

Hours later, we drove into the town that grounded the area the camp was located.  Almost out of gas, we drove around a sleepy, roll-up-the-sidewalk-at-6pm little town, looking for an open gas station. Luck on our side, we found the ONLY place open at 2 something in the morning: a gas station. Filling up, and asking any final directions, we made our way to the camp.

It was an absolutely calm summer night, clear skies, moon shining bright, and not a car on the road except for us. We found the camp, pulled over on the opposite side of the road, got out.. and just stood there. Somewhere, inside one of the shadowed, darkened buildings, under a very starry starry night, was the object of my quest. My Pancho to my Don Quixote said: “So, now what?”

We wound up by the car for quite awhile, talking, looking in silence, and some deep heavy sighing (most, if not all,  from me, I’m pretty sure).  Whatever bravado or knuckleheadedness that drove us out there, it left as we just stood and stared at the camp. The chicken side of me took over completely. We got in the car and drove off south, back to New York.

There were some other adventures that night, but I’ll save them for another blog letter, maybe.

Alexandra came back to NYC, we saw each other here and there, talked a lot on the phone, and I felt drawn to her when we were together over the next few years, and distanced myself at times (there was an age difference that at times became my own built in barrier). I know we had some excellent times together, I know I let her down more than once, and most likely hurt her (for which I am always so sorry about), and I know we had a love/need/want for each other. Well, I know it from my end.

The letter A: Alexandra. Alex. Ai.