My youngest daughter is on a school trip to Eastern Europe. It is perhaps the grandest adventure of her young life so far, and certainly the longest and farthest she has been away from home on her own.
She’s doing great.
I know she is doing great because we don’t hear from her much. We get just enough texts to know she’s OK, usually with a few tidbits from her day, where she’s going tomorrow, or what she’s eating. Would I like to hear more?
If talking to us takes her away from fully experiencing her travels, I don’t want to hear more. We are not part of her trip. We are her anchor to home, if she needs it, but she does not need it right now.
Now is the time for her to unmoor.
I am doing better than expected with this, but I’ve got to tell you, growing up is hard. And I’m not talking about her growing up, I’m talking about mine.
I am unmooring.
A rapidly approaching empty nest requires it of me, if I’ve done my job well.
Then I have moments like the one I had this morning, where I want to anchor my kids to me forever. In a moment of missing her, I checked the “Find My Friends” app on my iPhone. I already knew, roughly, what was on her agenda for that day, but I snooped anyway. What I saw shocked me.
There she was. My daughter, right outside the gas chambers at Auschwitz.
It gave my stomach a giant lurch.
She isn’t the first Deutscher to stand in that spot. Unknown, distant relatives stood there also. They lived and died there.
Later, my daughter texted us this picture.
“A relative?” she asked.
“Possible,” my husband replied. “It’s hard to know for sure, but likely. ”
My husband’s paternal family is from this region. While his great grandparents left Europe for New York in the late 1800s, many other Deutschers stayed behind. Some were innkeepers in the Ukrainian village of Rosniatow, which is about a five-hour drive from Auschwitz.
Does it matter if Moses is a blood relation? We share his name, and the name is an anchor.
An anchor to family.
An anchor to humanity.
An anchor to a horror I don’t want to be anchored to.
It is difficult to look Moses in the eye and see the reflection of my daughter in the glass frame of his image.
We may be unmooring as she comes into young adulthood, but we will always be each other’s anchors.
My daughter stood today with the ghost of Moses, and with the ghosts of families town apart by a government, and a people, that lost its way and descended into the greatest of evils.
It’s not much of a leap to think of other families being torn apart, right now — today — by our very own government. The families being separated at our southern border are not the criminals and rapists this administration would like us to believe. They are mothers, fathers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and children — most of them fleeing violence and seeking asylum. They are immigrants, as all our families once were, seeking a better life in a nation of immigrants.
They are us. We are them.
We must speak out against our government’s policies. When children, even nursing babies, are torn from the arms of their parents and shipped across the country, what else are we capable of? Here are some ways we can help.
I didn’t know this is where I was headed when I began writing today, but along with my daughter being so far from home, it is what’s on my mind, as well as so many others.
It is not lost on me that I can “find” my daughter at the touch of a button, know she is safe, and know that she will return home to me. It’s not lost on me that my fellow mothers cannot. The government doesn’t know where they put some of their children. Mothers do not know if their children are safe. They do know when their children will return home, or if they have a home.