Jewish Book: Saving Myself, a Los Angeles Childhood
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A Los Angeles Childhood History of the Book Part 2
Sunday, 16 October 2011 16:07

My mother, Esther, kept photo albums, all in order, chronological and titled, pinned in with Dennison corners on black felt pages of the photograph album. I grew up with these images. They filled in part of the vacuum while memory receded.

As I wrote, I pulled their faces out as a reminder of that earlier time when testimony was blurred or altogether obscured.  They informed me and helped the voice to come forward. The documented experience long hidden was factual and true.

I returned to Los Angeles as I got further into the story just to see, yes … the tree with the soft bark like papyrus Grandma Goldenberg taught me to hug was on Cochran Avenue. The La Brea Tar Pits, although now held in by mesh wire fence, were still where Grandma and I visited them. Ohrbach’s was now part of the Page Museum.

These are all images a child remembers and pulls forth to hold to her as gospel.  My own safe haven, warm and holding me now appeared on the page. There is a topographic map in the recesses of my brain. Yes, that child lived.  Yes, she is in there to guide me.

The house where my mother Alice died still remains. As the small child came out and was able to breathe on the page, so was I able to reclaim her as the two of us now walked through my life and became one.

My heart sister, Pat, said to me the other day, “You write about dead people.”

It’s not all about that. It’s the memory of their lives on the page, keeping them alive to help me. They are part of who I am, who I have become. Not separated and separate, like an antique flower-painted vase in a glass case, the one painted by my maternal grandmother, but out in the open, woven into wholeness, as threads were pulled together, called back home.

Queen Stinky emerges and joins me, strong, reliant, and resilient. She helps me down the path of the book. The will to survive, first revealed when I was four, carried me through death, loss, childhood, torture, rejection, betrayal, and then, rejoining, like the refraction of stained glass at Beth Olum Mausoleum. The pieces of the puzzle came together, the mosaic of my life, transformed. “Can we create a whole from decomposed matter… artifacts”? The scavenger hunt, the ultimate prize, the memoir.

Thanks to all of you living and dead who helped me to this place.  I share with you not a shrine of death, but a celebration of life: L’Chaim. Thank you for visiting Not Just A Jewish Book Blog.