Two weeks ago, a lovely elderly woman stopped by our table. She asked, gently, “Is this the tea party?” (This has been a common inquiry since the New York Times ran a story about us.)
She told me that she had read the article and was glad to have had the chance to join us. She introduced herself as Danielle. She asked me about the tea party and I told her of the origins and of my Dad. She stayed most of the afternoon. During a lovely visit I learned that she loved chocolate and was thankful for the chocolate cupcakes I had brought.
She told me that she was originally from Limoges. I paused, excited. The cups that had been left to me by my mother and grandmother—the ones that I began the tea party with–were from Limoges. I shared that with her and we spoke about my mom and my grandmother and some of what I had learned from them.
As she got up to leave in the late afternoon, I asked if I could hug her goodbye. After her embrace, she asked me if I knew about The Hidden Children. As I searched my memory for the term, she added, “During the war…” “Of course,” I said. “I know about The Hidden Children.” She told me that during the war, she was one of the Jewish children who was hidden by nuns in France. They had taught her the Catholic prayers. She told me that this was what had saved her life during the war.
Her story made me tear up for a reason beyond the obvious. When I was a little girl I knew that my neighbor up the street was a survivor of the Holocaust. When her husband died, my Dad drove her to synagogue and ran errands with her, and helped her around the house. More than once our Dad told us her story: she and her brother, as children, had been hidden during the war by nuns. He told us that the nuns had taught her the Catholic prayers in Latin. Once, she was stopped and asked her religion. When she said she was Catholic, they asked her to say her prayers. She knew the prayers that the nuns had taught her and that saved her life.
I told Danielle about my neighbor, and how it was important to my Dad that we remember her story. I shared with her that I felt as though my Dad wanted us to meet. We shared another hug and she told me that she looked forward to joining us again soon.