Treading Lightly

Rain percolates down my body after 2 hours with a dilapidated umbrella and tevas.  The blend of water and wind spawns involuntary shakes.  I step into the home, and another shiver fills me as cold water does a cup.

We walk in one line through the now museum and then hiding place of Anne Frank.  The narrow passage way and low ceiling prevent anything other than single file.  Through the first door – an advertisement of Otto Franks’ company promotes 10 minute jam.  Into the next, a flock of faint gray lines mark the heights of Anne and Margot Frank as they grow over the 2 years.  A dull mustard wallpaper claws the sides of the room accompanied by Imodium green trimmings.  And stale air escorts the visitor, room to room.  Entering through the next welcome way, a picture labeled “Chimpanzee’s Tea Party,” facing where Anne’s head rested on her pillow, greets the eyes.  There’s no light here.  Windows covered by wood planks barricade the annex from the world.  Her words cover the many surfaces in the house.  “A voice inside of me screams go outside in the open air and laugh.”  Words oh words oh words.  Anne writes her mom telling her to “tread lightly.”  Every time the floor creeks my heart skips a beat…the floor creeks a lot.

Signs at the entrance warn no photograph, no food, no animals.  Silence wasn’t requested.  And yet no one speaks a word.  Outside, nearby shopkeepers and coffee shops don’t monopolize on their proximity to the Frank Museum.  Nobody plasters her face on souvenirs or sells second hand copies of the diary.  There is a reverence reserved for Anne.  Locals want you to know this is not a tourist destination; this is a life lesson.

Weaving through the different displays inside, my mind winds back to age 12 when my eyes touched her words.  The book found me on a visit to see family in India.  Immediately, I felt at home with a girl my own age.  She was just another friend, and her words felt the same.  A book is marked by more than just how much you learn from it but how much you enjoy reading it.  Hers roped you in with funny anecdotes and a gripping plot.  I knew the end before I began but it didn’t matter, tears washed my face as her final days transpired.  Now that I knew her and we were friends, I couldn’t believe she’d been taken away from me.  It was perhaps selfish but exactly how I had felt.

Reading her words on the walls, my mind blurred.  I didn’t cry this time.  The imaginary needles stabbing me didn’t hurt as much this time, instead they stimulated me with motivation to work harder, to be a better person, to treasure life for its many liberates, and to remember the girl who did so much with so little.

Otto, her father, survived the war.  In one of the videos, he recounts that he would have never guessed the thoughts in his daughter’s mind based on his interactions with her.  I think parents have seen too much, and it’s difficult to believe the child who couldn’t tie their shoes can now have complex thoughts and possess reasoning.  He says, “most parents don’t really know their children.”  I’d like to think he would have: she just wasn’t around long enough to find out.

One of her diaries is showcased at the end.  On pages void of lines, rows of writing separate themselves by a perfect ½ inch gap.  Cursive streams the desert paper.  Red mars her words: dutiful, hopeful corrections that her work won’t be overlooked.  She never would know the sense and wisdom she imparted to us all.

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