Try to Remember

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Try to remember moments you can’t know. Not just the long slow summers at the beach. The high rolling waves you rode. The sand crabs’ nips. The time your mother took you to see Jack Kennedy, hatless in the bitter wind coming in off the East River as he leaned over the five-foot-tall labor leader and warmed the old man’s hand in both of his, hair on fire in the bright winter sun.

You should remember moments you can’t know. Not just your father speeding through the Seder, your mother’s off-key voice that cracked as she tried in vain—every year without fail— to reproduce her father’s niggun for the closing song: Chasal siddur pesach kehil’khato.

You must remember moments you can’t know. More than the conversations that swerved into rapid-fire Yiddish when you came into the living room, though you did make out some of the hushed names and words: Motek, Rivka, pogrom, lager.

Remember the moments you can’t know. The murders, a few months apart, of your great-grandfather and your grandfather along with two hundred thousand other Jews in the Ukraine and Poland twenty-six years before you were born. The way your grandfather used to look up from his Talmud, walk over to his open study window, stand there as your mother bounced her ball in the yard just outside, and count every bounce.