October 19, 2008
By Agi Geva
Whenever my children were having a good time, laughing their heads off, not responding even to my warnings to stop, I used to tell them, “You will see that in the end there will be tears!”
After a while they stopped laughing, but when they were older they wondered why—why should they stop?
Even my grandchildren would ask me, “Where does this idea come from?” I really could not remember why I had gotten so carried away telling them to stop laughing. It scared me to hear wild, uncontrolled laughter. It was a bad omen for me, but I could not explain it. All I knew was that I myself could not laugh anymore as I used to when I was younger.
During one of the Museum’s writing workshops I was asked to write about any event that happened before the war and my thoughts drifted to a day in March 1944 when I had some friends over to study for upcoming exams. When we were done, we sat around and relaxed, talking, joking, and laughing as only young girls do. We were already starting to get out of control when one of the girls, Marian, lifted her pinky and repeatedly said, “Little finger, pinky!” We laughed so hard. We begged her to stop, but when she kept quiet and just lifted her pinky it made us roll on the floor in hysterical laughter. We were so happy, so carefree. We loved our life, we loved each other, and we loved our studies. We were making our plans for the summer and discussing where to spend our vacation...
Three months later the entire Jewish population of my hometown of Miskolc, Hungary, was deported to Auschwitz. All of my girlfriends whom I had laughed with that day were killed.
When I thought about that laughter-filled day in the writing workshop, it suddenly dawned on me why I could never really laugh since then, why I had told my children to stop laughing, why I had thought that sorrow follows laughter.
It took more than 64 years for me to remember that beautiful day in my room with my friends, to remember being overwhelmed with youthful carefree laughter.
Now I understand the profound impact that the Holocaust has had on me and my family. Now I understand why I repeatedly warned my children, “Do not laugh so hard. You will see that in the end there will be tears.”
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