family, Writing

Chasing Ghosts

We will never see each other again, said my grandmother to my mother. Westbahnhof train station. Vienna 1938. That was the last time they saw each other. My mother was 21. Her mother died in Auschwitz six years later. Remembering what I never wanted to know.

family, Memories, Writing

My Grandmother’s Dishes


orange green purple
italian country dishes
with roosters
and rabbits
and carrots and dots
cheerful, hand-painted
seeing them, i feel uplifted and
joyful and home.
white porcelain with
royal blue and gold
rims, my grandmother’s
dishes, fragile like her
a woman i never met
the woman my mother mourned
for as long as i knew her.
elegant and simple,
like my grandmother,
these heirloom dishes
will stay in my keeping
until i, too, die
like my grandmother,
her life cut short
in auschwitz
concentration camp
concentration camp dishes
white blue gold
fragile but heavy
with memories and
my mother’s
guilt for leaving
her mother behind
at the train station in vienna
when she left with my father
who saved her life
long ago
eighty years ago
and the dishes
always remind me
of what we
all lost. What i
lost and find again when
i place the
white blue gold
dishes on my table
used again
by living breathing
people. my grandmother
smiling gently sweetly
my mother grateful
i always grandmotherless
and now motherless
travel through time
and reclaim my legacy.
family, Memories

Baby Cries A Lot

My mother didn’t approve of tears. So she held hers in while her eyes got redder and redder and her face paled. But she didn’t cry real tears. Not if she could help it. Not like Baby Cries A Lot, the doll I wanted badly and finally got for my fifth birthday. The one who drank water from a tiny baby bottle then cried real tears, the baby-bottle-water magically coming out of her eyes and flowing down to her pursed pink mouth that had taken in the water that started this whole gorgeous flood. My mother laughed a lot at Baby Cries A Lot. But I was filled with wonder at her waterworks. There she was, a girl like me, with real tears cascading down her plastic cheeks.
Making Baby cry a lot became my secret passion. At least there was one female in my house who cried easily, plentifully and on cue. Not like my mother, whose soft cheeks detested salt water. Not like me, who knew better than to cry real tears. Because I didn’t cry, either. At least not in front of anyone. If I cried at all, it was when I was alone in my room with the door closed or in the bathroom. 
Crying was forbidden in our house – I’d been taught that by my older brother when I was four. “Don’t ask Mommy about her parents.” “Why?” “Because she’ll cry.” It was an order and I took it seriously. Making her cry was the worst thing I could do, I decided. And it looked like it was the worst thing she could do.
Time after time, I saw the struggle on my mother’s face as emotion threatened to overcome her. I watched her wrestle the runaway emotion to the ground until she got control over it. Her eyes reddening but not filling with tears. Her mouth clenching. I hated to see her like that so I would look away. I would make some excuse and leave the room. Leave her alone. So I didn’t have to see her at her weakest. Didn’t have to witness the melting of that ice-mountain she’d built around herself. Because I knew. Somewhere inside that mountain there was dangerous red-hot lava, threatening to erupt.
My mother’s daughter, I built my very own ice-mountain. Piled it on, slab upon slab until I had a personal igloo in which I could hide, safe and unknown. My feelings of grief hidden to all, including myself. 
family, Greta Schreyer, love, Memories

Sacher Torte for Breakfast

I don’t remember a lot about our family traditions. I think that’s because we didn’t have a lot of them. But there is one that I remember with love and excitement and a feeling that it was done just right — birthdays.

The night before my brother’s or my birthday, we’d go to sleep as usual. When we woke up the next morning there would be a card table set up next to our bed, piled with colorful wrapped presents and a birthday cake. And it had all happened when we were sleeping. When I was little, I suppose I must have thought that gnomes or elves or birthday fairies had crept in and done it. But when I was older, I’d lie awake in bed waiting till my parents came in, willing myself not to fall asleep. Usually that didn’t work. But there was one time that it did.

It was late when my door opened quietly and a sliver of light from the hall shone in my room. I shut my eyes tightly as I heard my parents comes in, heard the creak of the metal legs of the card table as they unfolded it and the rustle of paper as they covered it with a paper tablecloth. I heard the sound of their tiptoed footsteps as they crept back out. Then nothing.

Through my eyelids I could feel the slant of light in my room. That meant they hadn’t closed my door yet. Did I dare open my eyes? Good thing I decided to keep them tightly closed, because in a minute they were back.

More rustling of paper as they put things on the table. Not “things,” I thought. Presents. My presents. I was tingling with excitement and dying to open my eyes. But hard as it was, I kept my eyes shut until I heard a strange noise. I could have sworn I heard giggling. I listened carefully. This wasn’t a sound I’d heard a lot from my parents. They were not gigglers. But there it was again, definitely giggling.

I wanted to open my eyes but I kept them closed, scrunching them up tightly as a rich smell began to waft my way. I knew what that meant and fought the tug of the smile at my lips.

There were some whispered words in German and more rustling of paper. WHAT were they doing? Finally, when I couldn’t stand it for one more minute, I had to open my eyes, the door closed behind them and they were gone. Silence. Behind my eyelids I felt the darkness settle back into my room. I waited a minute then opened my eyes.

In the darkness, I saw colorful wrapped presents of different shapes on the card table covered with a pink paper tablecloth; cards in white envelopes shone in the darkness; there was a vase of flowers that I couldn’t quite see, (often tulips because it was April) and, best of all, a chocolate Sacher Torte, decorated with pink roses and unlit birthday candles.

I sat up and peered at them all in the darkness as I fought with myself, wanting to unwrap the presents, read the envelopes and see who they were from, taste the cake. But I really didn’t want to spoil my surprise. So I forced myself to close my eyes again and fell asleep to the warm, rich smell of chocolate.

When I woke up the next morning, my parents and my brother came in, said Happy Birthday, watched me open presents and lit the birthday cake candles. Then, as always, we all had Sacher Torte for breakfast.

family, Friends, Memories

Labor Day Memories

One year ago I spent Labor Day weekend proofreading Jeanne Goen’s manuscript. It was published two weeks before she died, feeling complete that her book, priceless stories of her life, was out in the world. Today I’m remembering fearless and effervescent Jeanne with love and the fondest of memories. We are with you.


family, love

Daughter of Two Artists

When you have a granddaughter in Bali, you know her life is different than if she were raised here. And when I saw this photo, 3 years ago, I realized just how different her life is. Because this is Jazz, age 5, ‘piecing with a krink mop’ according to her dad, my son Evan, outside their house in Bali, free to be as abstract as her inner muse takes her. ‪#‎daughteroftwoartists‬ ‪#‎baligirl‬‪#‎grandkidsarethebest‬ ‪#‎truelove‬


family, love, Memories, Uncategorized

One Year Ago

Our Bali granddaughter, our beloved Jazz came to Brentwood with me where I taught a writing class as she read and drew and thoroughly enchanted the class. Afterwards, we went out for ice cream. And here she is, almost 7, pure sweetness and beauty, sharing a moment of love with me. In six weeks, I leave for Bali to celebrate her 8th birthday in her home, where she was born in a bathtub of frangipani flowers, delivered into the loving hands of midwife Ibu Robin Lim. I was the first to hold her, after her mama and papa. When they handed her to me I was overcome with love. I’m still overcome with love for Jazz. I haven’t been with her since August and she says she’s waiting until I arrive to cut her hair. I’m waiting, too, Jazz. For the moment you’re in my arms again, always deeply familiar despite the months and the miles. That’s what love does. Keeps us heart to heart. Keeps us deeply connected. Always. Our beloved Jazz..


Art, family, Friends, love, Memories, Tibor Gergely and Me


I was twelve when legendary Little Golden Books illustrator Tibor Gergely (Scuffy the Tugboat, Tootle the Engine, etc.) drew me, in his studio on Lexington Avenue in NYC, lost in my favorite activity. Now, decades later, today, I got to stand next to my likeness in the Platt/Bornstein Gallery at American Jewish University. Only this time I’m only pretending to read. smile emoticonThese days, all my extra time is spent on rewriting my family story (which many of you know as The Goldsmith’s Daughter.) As I excavate the past I’m struck by the extraordinary artists who peopled my life as a child. Tibor Gergely, my surrogate uncle (whom we called ‘Geri’) was my very favorite person. Thank you for then and now, Geri. Then and now. So very grateful