It all started when I was 5 years old, the questions in a child’s heart. I was invited to a church picnic – and raced home on my tricycle with the news! This would be almost like going to church, which I never got to do. Every Sunday I played alone. I felt funny and different in a bad way on Sundays and on any day when people asked me what religion I was. I wasn’t anything. Maybe going to the church picnic would make it different.
I never knew how my mother found out the bad news about that picnic. I only know that just before the big day she told me she was so sorry, but I couldn’t go. “It’s going to be at a swimming pool which is ‘restricted’,” she explained. “Restricted means your father isn’t allowed there because he is Jewish.” I knew my father was Jewish and my mother used to go to a Methodist Church – when she was little. I didn’t know what any of this had to do with the picnic or with me. “We never go anywhere your father isn’t wanted”, my mother explained.
“Why don’t they like him?.” My heart was broken and I didn’t understand. Hadn’t I been invited? If they didn’t want my father did that mean they didn’t want me? I didn’t have words for all my questions. It was years before I grasped the terrible irony that all too many worshipers of Jesus had been taught to hate, exclude and even kill relatives of that very same Jesus.
As a five year old, what I did understand was that I loved my father and I wouldn’t go to a place where they didn’t like him. I was very sad but I would be brave.
That happened in Baltimore during World War II. My book I am writing was conceived on that day, in the heart of a five year old.