I had no idea this was going to be my word for the letter “h.” In fact, when I brainstormed a list of words the other day, my “h” word was “happy.” Such a bright, sunny, hopeful, feel good word. So what happened?
Last night, I watched the movie “Sarah’s Key,” (Netflix added it their streaming options, so you can watch it on demand). It made a better movie than it did a book, most likely because the amazing Kristin Scott Thomas played the lead. She has the ability to play a character haunted by longing in a way no one else can match.
Then I woke up to a gray, rainy day, still thinking about it, about them, all those people lost, all that suffering and brutality. You might not know this about me, but I am a bit obsessed with the Holocaust, and have been ever since I first read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.
When she made her first entry in her diary, Anne was four years older than when I first read it, but there was something about Anne’s voice that seemed to come from inside my own head. She was so much like me. She loved books and movies; had one older sibling; wanted to grow up and marry and have children and to be an actress or a writer; she was independent and stubborn, but also sensitive; she felt like no one who knew her really knew her, that no one saw her true self. She wrote in her diary because “I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.”
I identified with Anne’s isolation and her hope for the future. I fell in love with her, mourned her death as if I’d lost a real friend. I felt the sad recognition that for every person like Anne, full of hope and possibility, there was another full of pain and anger, someone who had the potential to get in the way, to wreck and ruin that possibility.
I’ve read this book many times over the years. Every time, I brace myself for the disappointment that I am sure will come, because I can’t believe the actual book could possibly match my memory of it. I expect that it won’t be nearly as moving or meaningful—but it is, every time. And every time, my heart breaks again—that we as humans can be both so wonderful and so horrible.