The beginning of this blog post snuck out a couple of weeks ago. Here it is in full.
A collection of polished stones has been in my life for as long as I can remember. Initially it was placed on my grandmother’s sideboard, then – when she downsized into a home – on her TV. Thereafter it graced my parents’ sideboard, until my father’s dementia led him to believe they were edible and my mother had to move them.
I’ve heard various stories about the origin of these stones, and the reasons they were so precious to my grandmother: the first is that she brought them with her from the beach of the Old Land when she migrated, the second is that she brought them from the interim country she passed through between her old and new homes.
My grandmother’s migration was forced. She and her Germanic community did not move countries by choice. She was born in Haifa, then Palestine and now Israel, during the Ottoman Empire. The fall of this grand Empire in the early twentieth century brought in the British mandate: problematic at the outbreak of World War Two, as my forebears’ Germanic community had maintained many of their traditional customs and allegiances. The entire community was deported deported en masse to an internment camp in the New Country. She, with her young family, was at least reunited with her husband then.
My aunt recently queried the two stories I had heard: she pointed out that with only one small suitcase allowed per person Oma would not have brought something as impractical as stones, no matter how lovely and sentimentally treasured they may have been. She said they’re much more likely to be washed river stones acquired in the New Country.
It doesn’t really matter to me. I value them because Oma valued them, and they remind me of her. And they fit perfectly into a jar of “Hamburger Kieselsteine”, lollies which looked like washed river stones I bought in Germany – her Heimatland – a few years ago.
It is fitting that this story is posted on New Year’s Day, a time of reflection about the Year Just Gone and wonderment about the Year To Come. In a rapid-paced world where each year seems to go faster than the preceding year it’s nice to be able to pause, draw breath and consider the continuity of the Old into the New. My grandmother was an integral part of my life for over forty years. I learnt so much from her, absorbing qualities and heritage which influence much of my identity today. The Circle of Life continues…