Alice waved goodbye to her mother as she drove away. She was always sad to see her go, but she loved spending December with her grandparents in Brooklyn. Their house was much larger than her apartment, and they had the neatest collections. Grandpa loved to build model ships, and Grandma loved her polished rock collection.
They were getting older and Alice knew in her heart that time was getting short. They knew it too. For two weeks, the three took in Manhattan’s Christmas displays, attended Radio City’s Christmas show, and visited Rockefeller Center to look at the tree. But, this year was more special than all the others.
“We’re going on a trip,” Grandpa said once morning. “We’re going to DC for the weekend.”
“Yeah!” Alice had never been out of New York before and was excited.
That afternoon, they all packed for the weekend. Alice watched as Grandma opened the curio cabinet and picked sixteen polished rocks from her collection, whispering to each one as she set it in a red cloth pouch.
“Why are you taking those, Grandma?”
“You’ll find out soon enough, Sweetie.”
Grandma and Grandpa were the only ones still allowed to call Alice, Sweetie. She was nearly eleven and had outgrown her baby name, but they liked it, so she loved it.
They rode down on the train and got to the hotel after dark. There were so many lights, she felt like she was home. In the morning, Grandpa asked the hotel for a driver. Alice didn’t know where they were going, and it didn’t matter to her; she was happy to be anywhere outside of New York with her grandparents.
Alice read the name of the museum as they walked up. She looked at the large stone building marked United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Why are we going here?”
“To teach you about your family,” Grandma said, pulling out her red pouch.
Alice was even more confused as they went from room to room listening to the tour guide. Grandpa pulled out his handkerchief from time to time as he paused and looked at the photographs on the walls. Alice didn’t want to look, but she didn’t want to look away either.
She knew this was important to her grandparents even though no one spoke after the first room.
As they walked through one exhibit called Daniel’s Story, Alice thought the cakes looked sweet and tasty, and that even though her and her mother didn’t have much, they would sure need more than one small suitcase each if they were moving. As they walked through the exhibit, everything came together for Alice. She started to cry with her grandparents, but she still didn’t know exactly why she felt such a connection to this exhibit.
The tour came to a stop in front of a large display filled with photographs of children. Many much younger than Alice wearing striped clothing. Dirty faces, and piercing eyes drove daggers through her heart. Grandma opened her red pouch and with tears streaming down her face, turned to Alice.
“Open your hand.” Alice opened her hand as Grandma pulled out a polished stone and held it up. “My father, Jakob.” She placed the stone in Alice’s hand and pulled out another. “My grandmother, Ruth.” Another stone. “My grandfather, Isaak”. Stone after stone until all the stones had names attached to them and rested in Alice’s shaking hands.
Other visitors understood. Grandpa didn’t hide or wipe his tears; he understood. Grandma wept openly; she understood. Alice wept openly; she finally understood.