The legend - part 1

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The legend goes, that a handsome young soldier arrived at the gate of the shoemaker. It was war time and he was on his way to the front, looking for his brother. Members of his troop had stopped in the little Hungarian village. The soldier needed to have his boots mended. As he entered the garden gate, he heard a girl singing inside the house. She was so natural, so unassuming, that she had not even realized she was being observed while she went about her chores. His dark eyes finally met her sky blue ones and they smiled.

He asked if she would accompany him to watch the parade, just down the street. She immediately agreed. She was seriously seeing a young man in the village at the time; but she had said, yes, she would go with him. Then the soldier left. A few weeks later, the shoemaker received a letter. In it, the soldier asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The war was over. They were wed.

My parents’ wedding picture is black and white. It was taken in the garden of my grandfather, the shoemaker. There is a fairy tale magic to the people, forever captured in time: he, tall and devastatingly good looking in his uniform; she, tiny, innocently ethereal in her flowing gown and veil. The attendants and bridesmaids all wait in the picture to live happily ever after, the ending of all good fairy tales.

My mother had just turned 19; my father was 24. They were to be married for 45 years, but “happily ever after” hardly describes the rest of their lives together.

I have no recollection of my very early years, of course. I was told that one day, when I was about a year old, my father vanished from the face of the earth. After the war, he and a group of his men had been assigned to search for bombs which had not exploded. Some of his men had been killed whiled attempting to dismantle these bombs. No one knew what had happened to my father; however, in the small village where my mother had returned to live with her parents, the stories and speculations were endless. I particularly remember a story which was told about airplanes hurling messages, including messages from my father. I suspect there must have been cruel insinuations that he had run off from his young family. There must also have been stories that he had died.

I often wondered how my mother ever coped. At the time of his disappearance, she would have been only 23 years old with a young baby. Nevertheless, she had such strong faith and in fact a belief that he was not only alive, but that he would one day return.

And one day, four years later, she received a postcard from my father. It did not say very much, except that he was alive and that he had been in a maximum-security prison from which he had not been permitted to write. She was finally able to visit him. On one of those visits my mother had taken me. Until then, I had no recollection of my father. At home, he had always been spoken about and there had been a wonderful picture of the three of us—me at 6 months of age and quite bald, my mother very mature and lovely and my father in his uniform, absolutely divine; that is how I had known him.

I remember the train ride to the prison. I remember the bars and I remember a tall, thin man in striped pajamas, whom I did not know. My mother had been devastated by my reaction to the clothing of a political prisoner and never again took me to see him. (To be continued....)

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