Another section of the memoir I’m calling “Stash.” It is essentially flash–each piece is modular, and small enough to fit into a plastic stash box. And volatile enough to make me worry if perhaps I shouldn’t just hide it.
My brother is born in the summer. Winter vacation, my dad takes me and my sister to California to visit his best friend’s family. My mom stays home with the two littles. It’s a lovely time—no snow, the smell of eucalyptus. My first time in Chinatown. A restaurant down a flight of steps—recommended as the best! A giant fried butterfly shrimp. I buy some tiny cranes with wires for legs—you put them in a pot of moss and create a miniature garden. Muir woods, where the redwood burls bring forth green shoots and you can ship them home.
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, I’m in the passenger’s seat. My dad is absent-mindedly listening to the radio. They are talking about something…weird. A Nazi breeding program. I’m ten years old. I know about sex. My ears are riveted. You have to have sex? They take you away and make you have sex with a stranger and have babies? Blond Nazi babies? Super race doesn’t mean a lot to me, and I don’t understand the word “lebensborn.” But I understand. Suddenly my father reaches over and changes the station to classical music.
Still, I feel soiled. I can’t ask my dad, because it is about sex. He is good on Nazis, but for the combo I need my mother. Flying home, our plane gets grounded in a storm in the middle of the country. We are put on a bus, and drive all night through raging snow.
We stop at a diner and my father encourages me to order a hot roast beef sandwich with gravy. “You’ll like it,” he says. I do. For many years it will be my favorite thing to order.
There is a handsome young British guy with a guitar on the bus. He is nice to me and my sister. Years later my dad says, “Remember that guy with the guitar on the bus? Traveling all over. Turns out there were a lot more to come—hippies.” Towards the end of the trip the driver is disoriented and my dad directs him through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. My dad has the map in his head.
“You had a good time?” my mother asks. I had a really good time. But…
“Mom,” I say. “Did the Nazis make people have sex so they could have perfect Nazi babies?”
“Yes,” she says. That is all, but it is enough.