Bleakness hung in the air. There was a perpetual cloud over the house, not quite darkness nor yet cloudburst that might flush away the blue-collar gloom, but instead a paradox of inchoate form and overfullness that never gave birth hanging heavy with the smell of boiling cabbage, gravel and ash, axle grease and dirt.
Wintertime was my favorite season. The bare trees standing in the oblique light expressed something inside me that I could not. I was the immigrant’s daughter, my father from a land across an ocean, whose grandmothers had stood upon a black earth “sown with bones and watered with blood” in the catastrophe that had befallen Europe between Stalin and Hitler.
It was impossible to turn a blind eye to suffering and to the dark world of the human heart. One could see it sometime in the people, those who sought money and power and held a hand over the bent heads of others. My father would point it out, commenting in his oblique way, “the hand goes to the mouth.” And I felt the shame of being human, trying to recall the better parts of myself, knowing darkness was there in all of us.
What is wisdom? What is noble?
St. Augustine said that God gave man memory so that he might find the light inside him through the act of remembering.
If we remember that we have forgotten something, we have not forgotten it entirely. But if we have forgotten altogether, we shall not be in a position to search for it."
Remembering leads back to a beginning, to the truth, as we recall the steps we took that got us where we are.