I will never see strawberries the same way.

(NOTE: This is for Ariane, Logan, Erin, Maddy, Cooper, Sarah, Jenny, Andrew, Phil, Erik, Vivian, Stasia and Tyler, with deep gratitude. What you did together was remarkable.)


“What’s this?” I said, as I came in the door, dropping keys and and my purse and extra playbills on the kitchen counter. She had a small item wrapped in tissue in her hand, and was setting it down next to my things. 

She smiled, “Just look. I warn you, you’ll cry.”

I unwrapped the tissue to find a small sculpture of strawberries – painted a vivid red, their little seeds so carefully placed and their green stems perfect. 

“Strawberries,” I breathed.

She nodded and said, “They were a gift.”

And, just as my girl said I would, I teared up all over them. 

I’ll never look at strawberries the same way.


I’ve been chewing these words around in my head for well over a week now, not sure how to write them without sounding like an over-the-top proud mom. 

To be clear, I am fiercely proud of my 16 year-old daughter’s turn as Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank, as produced by Louisville’s CenterStage – a stellar community theater affiliated with the Trager Family Jewish Community Center. The version of the play CenterStage put on is the 2013 Broadway production, in which Natalie Portman played Anne. It’s tender; terrifying; delightful; gut-wrenching; heartbreaking; and, somehow, hope-filled.

Fiercely proud. 

But even more, I am in awe of the way a passionate director, an excellent crew, and a talented cast told a story I thought I knew – and yet, as they told it, I felt as if I was learning it all – Anne, the Holocaust, all of it – for the first time.

I’ve read The Diary before now. I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum in DC – twice, actually. I’ve read Elie Wiesel’s Night. I’ve seen Schindler’s List. I’ve read more historical fiction about World War II than I can even remember. And I’ve read what history I can find of my maternal grandfather’s capture and imprisonment in a camp for Allied soldiers and officers by the Nazi regime.


I thought I knew.


Monday morning, April 10, a shooter brought Louisville to its knees in horror and grief. Just like so many shooters have over so many years now in other places in these United States. 

That night, Maddy went to the theater for tech rehearsal – The Diary of Anne Frank was to open in three nights. She went to this rehearsal having spent two hours of her school day on a level 1 lockdown because of the proximity of the shooter. 

That particular evening, stage guns were being used for the first time – right at the end of the show, in those terrifying moments when the Nazis finally invade the annex and find Anna, her family, and their friends. I don’t know how to tell you what it’s like, in these particular days, to watch a gun being leveled at your child, even when you know the gun isn’t real; even when you were later told by your daughter, that during the first run with stage guns, the actor playing a Nazi gave her a small, almost imperceptible wink as he pointed at her, doing his best to ease the tension of a difficult moment on a hopelessly difficult day (thank you, Tyler). 

That day, violence and fear and rage and grief felt too close to home.

Opening night of the show fell just as Passover was ending, and though I am not Jewish, I felt that keenly as I found my seat, the stage set as if it were just after the annex has been ravaged and its inhabitants taken. Behind me sat a man wearing a yarmulke. Halfway through the first act, I heard him break into sobs. I closed my eyes at his pain, at what the scenes playing out on the stage must have done to his soul. 

For him, as for so many others in the theater that night, the violence and fear and rage and grief … beyond too close to home. Right there with them. With all of us, if we had the openness of heart and mind to let what we were seeing do its work on us. 


There’s a scene in particular that did me in each night of the show’s run – Anna and her father, Otto, are sitting in the tiny space of a room Anna sleeps in. She’s had a nightmare, a vivid one, and her screams not only wake her fellow annex residents, but they make them all fear capture even more. 

She has turned her mother away, and asked for her father – much of the show highlights the closeness of Anna and Otto Frank – and in this moment, the tenderness of a father who wants to comfort his child, and at the same time, protect all of them in their hiding, is front and center. It’s raw and painful – and at the same time, the most beautiful expression of relationship at its best. They hear sirens and cling to each other, all thoughts of Anna’s nightmare fading into the very real sounds of war all around them.


I believe with all my heart that being brave enough to own our stories, being kind enough to listen to the stories of others, and being compassionate enough to see where our stories and someone else’s might overlap is the very essence of what it means to be human. I believe we were made to be in relationship, created for love, and breathed into existence only for good. 

And I have come to believe, after the last few weeks, that the real power of Anne Frank’s story lies in the brutal and beautiful story of good, ordinary humans facing extraordinary evil by choosing relationship, and, in doing so, choosing hope. 

As much as I thought I knew, the way I understand the Holocaust has shifted. It is no longer a historical event I learned about in school, protected from its hardest truths by time and space. 

It is real. And this shift is an example of why I will write, scream and insist until my dying breath that we will never learn to love one another better if we do not first make an effort to understand each other’s stories. We will never triumph over evil without insisting that there is so much good in each of us.

We will never be what God (however you understand or name God) has called and created us to be without standing against that which would name any one person more or less than another. 


The last full company scene of Anne Frank begins with the joy of the annex residents having gotten fresh strawberries from their outside helper. “It’s been two years since I’ve had a berry!” one of the adults exclaims, all of them relishing the goodness of the strawberries.

The children – Anna, her dear Peter, and her sister Margot- all run up to the attic of the annex to eat their berries, laughing as they do and imagining what life will be like when they are finally free to go home. They’ve heard an invasion at a place called Normandy has happened, and they have reason to hope. 

And then…then the Nazis come.

And the half – eaten berries fall to the floor.

I will never look at strawberries the same way. 

And for that, I am grateful. 

4 thoughts on “I will never see strawberries the same way.

  1. I have no words as they escape me. Precious children.
    Thank you for your thoughts.
    If you’ve never read The Hiding Place
    By Corrie Ten Boom please make some time. It will touch your soul as this has.
    Lots of love to you,


  2. Such a touching piece. I love the way your words can make me see the picture and feel movement in my soul.
    Thank you for sharing your gift.


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