Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Memory (07/10/08)
TITLE: The Happiest Saddest Story
By Johnna Stein
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“Oh, that would feel so nice. I’ll sit on the floor while you sit in Daddy’s armchair.”
Annabelle breathed a happy sigh as Momma sat down. She wondered if Momma would cry today like all the other times.
With practiced ease Sophie slipped her hair free from its knot, letting her wavy locks cascade down to her waist. That felt good. Really good. She handed Annabelle the brush without looking at her.
Annabelle began from top to bottom brushing Momma’s hair until it glistened. Then, she ran her fingers through, gently massaging Momma’s scalp.
“Oh, that feels so nice Annabelle. You have such a soft touch, just like Oma. You are my beautiful Anna.”
“Momma, tell me again about beautiful Oma.”
“Your Grandma, Oma, was the most beautiful woman in our neighborhood. All the men were jealous of my Papa.”
“And I’m her namesake.”
“Yes, you are. Oma’s name was Anna. We added belle so we would never forget how beautiful Oma was inside and out.”
“I’m sad Oma died before I was born. We don’t even have any pictures of her. What did she look like?” Annabelle had always wanted to know.
“Grab that mirror on the table. Now who do you see when you look at it?”
“That’s silly, Momma. I see myself.”
“Well… when I see you, I see my mother, your Oma. You are the spitting image of her. You look more like her than I do.”
“I like that.”
Annabelle divided Momma’s hair into three sections and began twisting them into a braid. Momma leaned her head back and Annabelle thought she saw a few tears.
“Momma, are you missing Oma?” That was the first time she dared ask.
“Oh, it’s so much more than just missing her. It’s like all the happiness and sadness in my life mixed together.”
Sophie knew at one time she would need to share the truth with Annabelle, but when? Annabelle would turn ten next week. Sophie had just turned ten when… How could she tell Annabelle?
God, help me. You have walked me through this journey of forgiveness. Yet, sharing this story with Annabelle seems too difficult.
“You mean you’re happy because I look like Oma, but sad because she’s not here.”
“Yes, that’s part of it.”
“What’s the rest?” Annabelle became distracted and started the braid over again.
God, I need to tell her, lest she hear it from someone else. Lord, give me strength.
“Annabelle, you know that I grew up in Holland?”
“Yes, and when Oma died, Aunt Betsy adopted you and brought you to America.”
“There’s more to the story. You see, at the start of the war the Germans wanted to get rid of the Jews. Oma feared for my life.”
“Momma, you aren’t Jewish. You believe in Jesus.” Annabelle looked puzzled.
“Yes, I am Jewish. Later in America, Aunt Betsy taught me about Jesus, the Messiah.
“Tell me more, Momma.” Annabelle continued braiding fearful that if she stopped Momma might not continue the story.
“One night, Oma braided my hair before bed. She loved to play with my long hair, just like you do. It was always my favorite part of the day. Then, she hugged me,
‘Sophie, I love you more than life itself. That is why Papa and I are secretly sending you to America with Mrs. Smit tonight. You must do as we say. We plan to meet you there in a few months. She’s promised to take good care of you.’
I started to cry and held on to Oma. I had never spent even one night away from home. Then, Oma cleared her throat and said, ‘Papa, get the scissors.’
As she cut off my long, shiny braid, Oma sobbed, ‘I’m so sorry, my darling Sophie.’
Right then, I knew my life would never be the same. She fitted a blond wig over my snipped hair and kissed me three times. I’ll never forget her last words to me, ‘I do this because I love you Sophie.’
Then, the neighbor Betsy Smit came to get me.”
“So Aunt Betsy’s not your real aunt?”
“No, but she’s like a mother to me. She raised me like her own daughter when Oma and Opa died in the camps in Germany.”
“Momma, that’s the happiest saddest story I’ve ever heard.”
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