Third Grade in America

     My first American school experience was with a teacher who would definitely have been diagnosed as mentally ill today.  I was dumped into a third grade class the month after I arrived in Richmond, Virginia from Montevideo, Uruguay.  I might as well have been dropped down from Mars.  I was a pudgy, girl with dark, curly hair and almost no English.  The teacher was Miss Thompson, a tall, skinny woman who wore severely tailored clothes.  I don’t think she ever smiled, and her voice came out in sharp, short syllables.  She seemed to wear a...

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The Banyan Tree

     I was born in Vienna, Austria, and I have always missed my family. Growing up in South America, I did have my parents with me, and I had a brother, an aunt and uncle, and a cousin, but I knew that I needed more than that. When I moved to the United States, and I heard my friends talking about other kids in the Jewish community who were related to them, I always envied them. I thought it would be so great to have people scattered around the city who were my family. I wanted to bump into someone down town or at a movie or a restaurant and...

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People Make the Difference

     The past is always elusive. Shakespeare said, “Thus memory doth make liars of us all.” I wanted my own reality check on my own past, a past that was over sixty years old. My four daughters wanted to come with me, and that was far beyond my wildest dreams. It takes two days to fly from St. Louis to Montevideo, Uruguay. It truly feels as if it is a world away.      We spent two weeks in Uruguay, and only two days in Montevideo. The inner city where I lived is not as much changed as I had expected. I found the store where my parents had...

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My Dad

My dad had a great sense of humor, But he was not a happy man. My dad could deliver a joke perfectly, But it took a lot to make him laugh. My dad was intelligent and curious, But he had very little education. My dad did everything with competence, But he never felt that he was a success. My dad loved to quote great proverbs for living, But rarely did he actually practice them. My dad loved my mother most dearly, But he seldom showed her any affection. Many contradictions. When he emigrated to South America, He left behind a brother and five...

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Mother-tongue

The language I use now is not my Mother-tongue. It is not the language I heard while lying in my Mother’s womb. It is not the language I learned to understand in the first year and a half of my life, while my family was living in terror, planning to flee their homeland, Austria, that had become Hitler’s Nazi Austria. German was the language I heard as my family said good-bye to each other. Good-bye to brothers and sisters and parents, who thought that maybe they would never see each other again. German was the language that was used to...

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Learning to Adjust

     What I have learned in my life and how I have learned it are directly related to my self-concept. One essential facet of my self-concept is my association with the significant others in my formative years. “Significant others” includes family and groups to which I have belonged throughout my shifting life.      For instance, it is interesting for me to realize that, by the age of two years, I was already the product of two cultures. I was born in Vienna, Austria in January of 1938, six weeks before Hitler marched in the city and annexed...

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