Monday, March 1, 2010

People who've made a difference in my life

Frieda S.

Frieda lives in our building. Some people think she's a kvetch, but my kids adore her, and stop to give her a hug whenever they see her. She always glows at their affection for her, and tells me I am a great mother. I'm not sure how old she is, but she emigrated from Germany after WWII. She speaks five languages. Her son is a doctor, a fact which makes her very proud. She remembers the birthdays (and names) of all five of my children, and calls up on the right day and always has a little gift waiting. She mails a card at Christmas, too, even though she's Jewish.

Frieda has some weird habits. Our apartment building is on a steep hill, so that by the time you walk to the back wing you're actually on the fourth floor instead of the first. Frieda lives on one of the lower floors. For years I watched her wheel her little collapsible grocery cart into the elevator, press the button for her floor, and then walk down the stairs to retrieve her purchases.

One day I happened to be going down instead of up in the elevator, just as Frieda was putting her cart in. Instead of heading toward the stairs, Frieda decided to go down with me. As the door closed she confided, in her German accent, "You know, I don't like going into confined spaces alone. I spent four years in hiding as a teenager, and I still get a little claustrophobic."

Four years in hiding in a small space. Sixty-five years later, and the scars are still there.

You never know why people do things that are a little weird. You just never know.


  1. That is a little heartbreaking.

  2. My daughter has a elderly neighbor who gives her kids candy and hugs. She has an Eastern European accent and my daughter asked her where she was from. Found out she is an Auschwitz survivor. Some history brings you to tears when you find it living next door