We were in the middle of the twentieth century. Approximately. Henry Friis could have told me the precise middle, but then he would have told me that time, the way I thought of time, didn’t exist. He and Mim (oh, how I missed her!) would have had a lot to talk about.
There was nothing middle-of-the-road about 1950, though. That was the year of taking sides. Joseph McCarthy saw to that. A U.S. Senator no less, and I thought Congress had more sense. McCarthy claimed that the State Department was infested with Communists.
McCarthy played on our fears. The Soviets had gotten the atomic bomb, and communists had taken control of China. Henry was furious and frightened, when a physicist at the Los Alamos Labs, Klaus Fuchs, confessed to giving secrets about the bomb to the Soviets during World War II.
“Fuchs was the son of a Lutheran minister,” Henry told me at Tilden Park with the children one Saturday, while Rachel was having her hair done. “How could he have done such a thing?”
“Lutherans aren’t immune,” I said. “Neither are Jews.”
If Rachel were worried about Henry’s job at Berkeley or about Communism, she didn’t show it. At Little Mim’s birthday party in May, Rachel regaled us with the latest news about reclaiming the land in Israel. Iran had extended diplomatic relations, Britain had formally recognized Israel as a state, and the United Nations had declared Jerusalem to be international territory, neutral and inviolable. Oh, and by the way, Little Mim was potty trained and had developed a passion for strawberry ice cream. Poor child, she’d likely be twinned with the dream of a Jewish homeland for rest of her life.
By June, the United States was back on a war footing again this time in Korea. The “Cold War” was already heating up. It was the first time since Mim’s death that I felt the slightest bit glad that she couldn’t witness what was happening.
Despite the turmoil, I had passed through the worse part of my grief over losing Mim. I think we all had, even Ephraim. He took an interest in the shop again. The storybook he designed and printed for Little Mim reminded me of the Charlie and Snuffles story that Mim once made for Sidney. Hans and I were closer than ever. We had enjoyed Yosemite National Park so much in ’49 that we decided to try Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood after the High Holidays. Sidney minded the gallery, and on October 10 we checked into the Lodge.
Have you ever been to Timberline? It’s gorgeous. Massive stone fireplace, beautiful work from Depression Era artisans. We were determined to enjoy every minute.
The next day we headed up the south side of Mount Hood toward the summit. The weather had turned cooler and cloudy, and there was a bit of snow on the ground, but we weren’t serious about getting to the top. We had plenty of food and water for a half-day hike. The ski season didn’t start until around Thanksgiving, certainly not before Halloween. We didn’t bother to stop at the front desk to check on the details of that day’s weather.
The storm hit us part way up a trail that only a moment before had been clearly marked and comfortable to climb. Our bucolic ramble ended with an odd cracking noise, like thunder. A thunderstorm, I thought. No need to worry. When everything clears, we’ll get our bearings.
I was wrong. I reached for Hans just as a wall of thick wet snow hit me, knocking us to the ground. Suddenly it was dark and Hans was pulling at me, dragging me up, kicking and thrashing. And then there was whiteness all around, but I could breathe again.
I’m not the sort of character to give you every last gasping detail. Maybe Hans could, if you ever meet him. I’ll just say that by the time the sky cleared, the stars were out. Thousands of them. Such a magnificent sky! I was so cold. Cold and wet. And weary. We hadn’t brought a shovel. We hadn’t brought matches. We hadn’t thought about survival.
Hans and I headed down toward the lodge, or so it seemed. Nothing looked familiar. Finally, it must have close to dawn judging by the night sky, something did look familiaran outcropping of rock we had sought shelter under hours before.
“Liefje,” Hans said. Sweetheart. We were both shivering so violently, and his lips were blue.
“I want a glass of sherry and a blazing fire,” I told him. He answered me, I know, but I don’t remember what he said, only that his voice was slurred and the words didn’t make sense.
Sometime later I stopped shivering. I remembered the whoopee cushion and Mim’s laughter. And, years before, there was Mim, rocking back and forth, reciting a psalm. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ” I tried to stand, because I had to get to a phone and tell Rachel about the prayer shawl that belonged to Little Mim. Who would go through my things?
My legs failed me. And then I felt hot. What was I doing in all these clothes? And I thought, you promised her rest a moment and try again…you have to get to a phone. And I buried my nose in Hans’s neck, and I smelled his Sutliff’s Mixture 79 tobacco.
…Hans Dekker, this is my very best friend, Miriam Josefsohn. I call her Mim….