I had a conversation at the grocery store this morning that I could not get out of my head. I told a friend that I bumped into that my daughter was on a field trip with her synagogue to Whitwell, TN to visit the Holocaust Memorial, an actual Nazi boxcar filled with millions of paperclips that were collected by students as part of a project to understand the enormity of the loss of six million Jews.
My friend had been there and as she described what she remembered, I glanced over at my groceries being bagged every once and a while to make sure I was not holding up the line, but I was intent on listening because i wanted to see in my head what she was describing. She said when you arrive in Whitwell, you make a left at a Hardee's and then you arrive at the Memorial. She mentioned a button you press to hear the story of the paperclip project, the gate, a key, the butterflies, a little more about butterflies and the extra millions of paper clips sent beyond the six million that are held in a tomb-like structure. As I hurried back to the line and my groceries, I heard the words I must have been waiting for that have not left me today.
She said how amazing it is that around the corner from a Hardee's in the middle of nowhere in such a tiny space something so beautiful was created. And in those words, I saw it and could imagine this tribute to Holocaust survivors born from the hearts of teachers and students who created a tiny space that told the enormous story of this tragedy too horrible for our heads to understand in Whitwell, TN, very far from a synagogue.
The world moves fast similar to the fast food line at Hardee's down the street from the tribute in Whitwell, TN. It does not anticipate or wait or ask or hold or understand but rather it impatiently moves us through from one meal to the next. I think this is why I chisel away to create room for my story and why a boxcar filled with paperclips down the street from a Hardee's is so beautiful and why I can't stop thinking about it. The space we create for loss can be as tiny as a sliver of the light of the moon as long as we remember it is the moon that is responsible for the rise and fall of the ocean tides.
Anne Frank is my hero. Hiding in a small dark annex, she found her own beautiful, strong light. The video is from Paperclips and the song is Jubilee by Allison Kraus.