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By Louise Lawrence-Israëls

When I give a presentation, I almost always start by saying I am here because I was lucky. 

Why was I lucky? Because there were people around us who risked their lives to help us and to save us, and because of the love and courage of my parents.

My parents were truly together, they loved each other, they respected each other, and they shared everything.

They gave their five children the same love and respect they had for one another.

My parents were very strict, but fair. We all received special time and attention when needed.

In the years after the war, it was mostly my mom who spent time with us, as my dad worked hard and used to come home after we were already asleep. If we came with an important question after school, we had to wait for the answer until the next day: my parents had to discuss it first at night. Of course, we were impatient, but we knew the rules.

When we came home from school, before we started with our homework, we always sat around the table and had tea and what we called “frillies”(plain biscuits). Mom was always mending or knitting—I never saw her just sitting—as we discussed our day in school and our friends. Saying something about somebody that was not nice was not tolerated. We used to ask Mom when she would finally be finished with the pile of clothes that had to be mended. We could see the pile on a shelf and it never seemed to get smaller. Mom promised us that when there were no more clothes to be mended, she would buy us an ice cream cone. It was a special promise since ice cream was a treat that we almost never got.

We looked at the mending pile every day, and we saw no change.

We always had Wednesday afternoon off, and one day we came home for lunch and my mom gave my brother some money and told him to take my sister and me to the ice cream cart, five blocks away, where we were allowed to buy a cone. We were so happy that we danced all the way.

Ice cream has never tasted the same again, that little cone with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream was the best.

I asked my mom, much later, why she had treated us as there were still so many clothes left to mend. She answered that she would never be finished as long as we all were growing. We had waited long enough and we never asked, so we deserved the treat, she said. These acts of kindness and fairness stayed with me, and I have tried to incorporate them in my life with Sidney and our children.

I am lucky again; I see that our grown children treat their children with the same kindness and fairness.

Having time for each other and listening to each other makes us a happy family.

© 2022, Louise Lawrence-Israëls. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.

Tags:   louise lawrence israëlsechoes of memory, volume 14life after the holocaustparentsfamilymemory

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