As a little girl, I was petrified after reading “The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank“. My hitherto cushioned and protected life could not take in and believe the horrors that war brought upon the lives of people. For a long time after that, I went to bed scared of the what ifs. What if we had to live a life like Anne? What if WWIII started and we died without ever knowing what it means to grow up, go to college , have a job and kids?
But at first, I was also very confused about some chapters from Anne’s life where she talked about the crush she had on the boy whose family hid with them in the attic. I could not believe how she could be concerned about a boy’s feelings for her when their lives were at stake. I think I judged her a little bit.
And then, as I grew up, curious to read more about WWII, I read more books about Anne’s life in the concentration camps, Last Stop Auschwitz and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. And I always went back to Anne. Like she was the person I knew who had gone to that hellish place. And since I grew up a little too, I began to understand her better.
Like she was a teenager who could not fathom the enormity of the situation at first. May be she thought there would be a day when they would be able to walk out of that house as a free person. May be she was so afraid that at one point she just stopped being afraid. She wanted to live her life completely. She wanted to grow up to be a woman, have a boyfriend, and experience her first kiss. She wanted to journal her life in the attic so that one day when all of this was over, she would publish that book and become famous.
The last straw of my journey came when I visited the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam. At that point, I was happily married with a 9 month old Lil S in my arms. For those of you who haven’t been there, it’s the same house where Anne and her family hid for close to 2 years. As we climbed the narrow stairs to the upper level and moved across hallways and went to Anne’s room, which she also shared with her sister, all those scenes from her diary came floating right across my eyes. My first instinct was to clutch Lil S a bit more closer. There was absolute silence as we moved across the house. We came out and sat to watch a short film about Anne’s journey from this house to the concentration camp to never return.
And as I grew up from a teenager to the mother of a beautiful girl myself, I fully understood the gravity of those feelings that Anne had. That she never could fulfill. I choked and shed a tear. If you could hear a heart break, you would have heard mine that day, breaking into a million pieces.
Anne’s character might not be a very difficult one to process, but for sure is a powerful one. The strong voice of a little girl rising above the cacophony of WWII. Telling us to be gracious, to have gratitude for things we have, for the life we have, and the one she could not have.