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  • Barbara Stark-Nemon

Giving Thanks, Then and Now


Seventy-seven years ago this weekend, my grandparents and my mother spent their first Thanksgiving in America at the home of the family who gave them an affidavit to enter the U.S. and escape Nazi Germany. At every subsequent Thanksgiving dinner, my storytelling grandfather repeated this tale of their first social experience in the U.S., and how profound their gratitude was to have been granted the life saving, welcoming support in their new country.

The father of the host family happened to be a vice president of Macy’s Department Store in New York, and that Thanksgiving dinner was a formal affair in their elegant White Plains home where my newly arrived family were transported from their apartment in Washington Heights in a limousine. The contrast of the fear and deprivation they’d experienced in Germany, with the warmth and opulence of that occasion remained as strong impressions throughout my grandfather’s 100 years. My mother still has clear memories of that beautiful meal. It included oysters, which she, as a 13 year-old, who had been instructed to eat everything she was served, could not face putting into her mouth. She surreptitiously folded the oysters into her napkin, and a moment later, a butler whisked the napkin from her lap and replaced it with a clean one. Her gratitude was deepened again that day!

My grandfather was barely able to escape Germany and come to this country. His sister was not so fortunate, and her story of survival, resilience and hope underlies the plot of my novel Even in Darkness. In this season of gratitude, and from my abundant life, I cannot help but think of those who are currently fleeing from religious and political persecution. I wish them an outstretched hand, and an introduction to a freer and more open society that allows them, and those who follow them to thrive and contribute to a better world. Wishing all a peaceful and love-filled holiday season.