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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Park (10/25/12)

TITLE: Watching Over You
By Karen Pourbabaee
~10th Place


Watching Over You

I strolled along the Rhein River tracing its route to the Rheinpark. In the distance the majestic spires of the Cologne Cathedral loomed heavenward. The words of the Shabbat blessing escaped into the frosty air…

“May God bless you and watch over you.
May God shine His face toward you and show you favor.
May God look on you with favor and grant you shalom peace.”

It had been twenty years since I had last uttered that blessing in my homeland, in my childhood home of Cologne. My family was spared the deadliest atrocity of the Third Reich, though we had been humiliated and intimidated by Hitler’s “aryanization.” After we barely escaped the massive arrests of Kristallnacht in November 1938, my family went into hiding, later relocating to Denmark. The intensity and fear that enveloped my country left an imprint upon my young soul, ushering me into the shadow of God’s wing, even to this very day.

Throughout the ensuing years, I wondered what had become of Anneleis and her family. We had been childhood best friends when Hitler’s reign of terror emerged. The Rheinpark was the place of our childhood dreams , and in the year of celebrating our bat mitzvahs, it was also the place of our parting one cold misty November eve.

“My father is confused, Tallis, and I don’t know what my family will do to escape this terror.” Tears streamed down Anneleis’ cheeks. She knew my family had a plan, though I could not disclose the details.

“I will miss you desperately, Anneleis. Tomorrow my family will just disappear, but I bid God watch over us.”

“We must promise to meet again when all this has ended . Surely our countrymen will one day rise and overcome this evil; surely God will intervene on our behalf.”

“Yes, yes…we must believe! We will meet again ….on the first night of Hannukah at sundown…twenty years from now!” I claimed emphatically.

“With our husbands and our children!” Anneleis smiled and giggled.

“And let’s bring candles to light the faces of our handsome husbands!” I almost felt happy.

In our last distressing moments, as the sun set over the Rheinpark, together we recited the Shabbat blessing . The image of our clasped hands in prayer gave me hope for today.

Soon Ari and our children, Joseph and Mara, joined me at the entrance to the Rheinpark. Little Mara held tightly to the candle I had entrusted her with.

“We made the right decision, Tallis.” Ari gave me a reassuring hug as we sat on a bench just inside the park entrance. I had been content strolling through my childhood hometown alone. A healing balm overcame me with every step.

“Mommy, can we light the candle?” Mara begged.

“No, not now, little one. We must wait until mister sun has gone away.” I smiled at her cherubic face.

The sun had already descended below the trees, its light fast escaping. Families were bustling about, gathering children to head home. A host of bicycles sped by signaling the day’s end. We waited, holding our breath.

Joseph had been playing at a nearby pond when we heard his gleeful voice inviting us to join him on the bridge spanning the small pond. When we arrived at the bridge center, it seemed like a perfect place to light our candle. After all,it was sundown. For a few moments I thought about my parting here at this park with Anneleis. I had married a handsome husband and here I was, alive, and surrounded by my children Mara and Joseph. It is enough, Lord, I thought.

Little Mara finally got to hold our lighted candle. As prayer began, another light moved toward us in the darkness. Soon a small boy’s face came into view. A handsome man stood beside him and I heard the laughing of children behind them. Then moonlight shone upon a woman walking toward us. She had dark raven hair and an engaging smile. God had watched over us after all. The words of the Shabbat blessing escaped into the frosty air…

“May God bless you and watch over you.
May God shine His face toward you and show you favor.
May God look on you with favor and grant you shalom peace.”

And He blessed us that night with His favor and shalom peace at the Rheinpark, a place of childhood dreams and God’s redemption.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Dolores Stohler11/03/12
What a beautiful story! True or not, it tugged at my heart. Thanks for writing this. Shalom.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/07/12
Wow this too is an awesome story. As I am reading through the list God touches me in so many different ways. I could feel the conflict of the story build and found myself holding my breath hoping that Annelise too would be there. This is beautiful and so important to keep writing of this era lest we forget. Outstanding bit of writing.
Loren T. Lowery11/08/12
So perfect and so full of God's faithfulness in historical, retrospective action. I could feel both the anguish and hope of your characters and the revelation of His promise was powerful. Congratulations, Karen on this wonderful piece of writing.
Margaret Kearley 11/08/12
What a wonderful story. A reminder of those dreadful years and those who did survive. Beautifully writted. Congratulations on your EC Karen.
Myrna Noyes11/08/12
Oh, what a haunting and lovely story!! I so appreciated its message of God's faithfulness! CONGRATULATIONS on your well-deserved E.C.! WAY TO WRITE!! :)
Beth LaBuff 11/08/12
Karen, this story is stunning, filled with hope and warmth in the midst of the holocaust. When I was reading the Shabbat blessing, the music from Fiddler on the Roof played through my mind (I love that song.) Super congrats on your EC award!
Frankie Kemp 11/09/12
Very nice. Reading it makes me want to know more about you, the writer, and what drew you to make such a connection? Reading it leaves me with questions and wonderings. That means it affected me.
Bea Edwards 11/09/12
Lovely well written story. You did a beautiful job highlighting the hope that was manifested and honored for some.