Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fear of Sharing - Stow it Away

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Self Reliance Project I've embarked on requires me to respond to prompts given once a day for 30 days in a row
Today's prompt by Gwen Bell
You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.

1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.

Fifteen minutes to live? 

My first urge is to pack all my folders, all printed materials in a box, to schlep all the files and folders on the three Macs I work on to the shared Drop-box and dump. Dump everything in the file I share with my husband (is there enough space?). And then what? I'll be dead. Will he care enough, will he have the gumption to do what needs to be done to get the story out that needs to be written?

Needs to be written? Get out of here! It's all been written. I've been writing since 1980 when IDTV director Harry de Winter lend me one of the Brother typewriters that was used in his office on the Kloveniersburgwal in Amsterdam. I'd pick up the machine and a cassette at 5 p.m. on Friday and return it on Monday morning.

At the time I was working on an opera by Milhaud and Cocteau. Juri Voogd, the director introduced me to Harry in Café Frascati. Harry was curious, where did I come from, a Jewish girl in Amsterdam he had never met, that seemed impossible. So I told him I had lived in Amsterdam until age seven, when my parents and I moved out of town, back to nature.

In 1963 "up north" to Allardsoog could be likened to emigrating to Australia. Raised in isolation, in the middle of the fields, without relatives or friends, I thought we, my father and I, were the last Jews. Not unlike The Last of the Mohicans. My father's mother, after whom I was named was gassed in Auschwitz, so was my father's sister Beppie, her husband Simon, and their children. Whether these cousins were boys or girls, and how many there were, I never heard from him.

My father's brother Jacques was killed at sea, he was the cook on a Merchant Marine ship. My dad never talked about Jacques' wife and children, I gathered there were none. The times that Papa called his surviving sibling Marie on the phone, making contact just for me, he'd hang up after a few minutes. They didn't get along. My father wasn't on speaking terms with Maupie (short for Maurits) either. Maupie was my half-brother, my father's son from his first marriage to aunt Poldi. One of my dolls was a gift from her. I only knew handsome Maupie from a photograph.

The alarm just went off, I'm dead and I haven't told the story I need to write, no, that I need to share. Even the threat of death can't make me come to the point. How pathetic is that? 
For me, writing or creating something is not the problem. I've got loads of material that's already written, and believe me I did get to the point. 

Come back you hear! I'm not finished yet!

This work by by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


Ruth Donnelly said...

30 prompts in 30 days? What a brave endeavor! Finished or not, I enjoyed reading your thoughts!

Lia Keyes said...

So many lives lost, and such emotional poverty endured by those that survived. This is such a tragic post, Judith. My heart goes out to you and your family.

Shelley Souza said...

Judith I was struck by the urgency to say what needs to be said. Death comes to all, and we don't know how or where or when it will come for us. Your story is ancient that has only just begun.

mary lou said...

Like Shelley, in those 15 minutes you told us your book...talk about log lines...you have a lot to tell...about your family...so many stories.

I asked myself what I would do...hug my dogs, tell them everything will be alright...take a walk...maybe call my family and tell them I love them...Writing didn't even come into the picture....says something...doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

It is difficult to put the most important roots that define you into 15minutes. You may not have finished your story but you struck an emotional chord. Sometimes that is the only thing we can hope for. To reach out and connect with someone else. That is the human condition.

Anonymous said...

great start to the prompts. Will definitely be coming back to read more. Such tragedy, so many of us are blessed enough to be safe from those kinds of events, though it can only help but bring power to your words in the end.

EW Gibson said...


Incredible story of tragedy and yet there is strength to survive. You have a story that must be told. Thank you for sharing.


Judith van Praag said...

Wow! I'm touched by the responses this post triggered.

@Ruth, Thank you for visiting and for leaving a comment, it's good to know you get your ZZZZZs elsewhere, please do come back!

@Lia, When I first read your note I was overwhelmed by the acknowledgement of my family's situation. I wouldn't have characterized our situation as living under "emotional poverty". The notion that you do triggers a lot of thoughts, helps me to see more trees I couldn't see for the forest. Thank you!

@Shelley, You're words often form a puzzle, the pieces complete, and yet I need to separate them to see the total picture. Sometimes the solving is in the making :-) Thank you!

@Mary Lou, the picture you paint is peaceful, in the moment, a great place to be. And yes, one log line can't pull the treasure trove I call my own. Thank you for your encouragement!

@Kim, Ah, Dear Ms.Dragonfly, I feel our connection, it's thrilling.

@just-Cassie, Thank your for your compassionate words. There's riches in experience, no matter what.

@Elizabeth, Thank you for visiting and for leaving words of acknowledgement and support.

Leigh K Hunt said...

I know that I am late to the comment party here, but I just wanted to say that I loved your little 15 minute family history lesson.
Out of tradgedy comes life. You definitely have more to say on the subject, and I would be keen to read more of this. My godfather was Dutch, and grew up in concentration camps. He died when I was sixteen, but I will never forget his stories of early life. Your post reminded me of that. In memory these worlds live on. In writing, they can potentially be remembered forever. Write on, dear sister.

Judith van Praag said...

Deaer Leigh, Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment! To know that my words resonate AND make you think of your Godfather is meaningful to me! I hope you'll return xoxo