We are all blessed with two birth parents, and if we are lucky one or two of those are positive role models and on board for at least some portion of our lives. If we are really lucky, we may have the good fortune to score another mom or dad figure, someone who appears virtually out of nowhere, as fate or serendipity might have it, and takes us under their propitious wing.
Such a thing happened to me in the form of a bright, spunky, and emotionally generous woman named Joanie Arnesty, who helped me through the veil of darkness that infiltrated every corner of my being.
As a child of a German-Jewish Holocaust survivor, my mother’s past of suffering and filled my own life with perpetual sadness, which I found difficult to eviscerate.
There was scant laughter in our house and constant retellings of what my maternal family had gone through in World War II and how many of them had perished in the Shoah. I yearned for the happy childhood I intuitively felt was my birthright but which evaded me because the spectre of war filled up our entire home.
Although grateful for my parents, I felt the emotional burden of my mother’s scarred and tattered life to ultimately be too much, and I fled at age nineteen to a coastal California town to begin a college life. I was excited by the prospect of sand and sea at my doorstep and new stories and events that had nothing to do with the Holocaust, which had stolen so much from us.
Throughout my adulthood I wondered why I had not been given a happy family and a childhood that was punctuated with cheery memories.
In every photo that was taken of me by my Polish father—who had hoped to become a photographer but instead found himself bitterly working in low-paying factory jobs, never with anyone
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