As Earth Day rolls in this week, I’ll enjoy the extra attention devoted to the Earth and our environment, from movements to stop fracking and ban disposable plastic water bottles, to maximizing our public space and making it “green.” Likewise, each April we mark Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, timed to commemorate the active organizing and resistance of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
While the themes of Earth Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day shape who I am and how I embrace the world, I appreciate our calendar’s call to action on each. Later this week I will ride my bicycle to meet with 11th graders at a public high school in Brooklyn, where I will have the opportunity to share my father’s experience of survival during the Holocaust. Together we will explore the power of personal stories and the influence they have upon our own identities. And what ideal timing to do so, the weeks of Earth Day and Yom Hashoah. I feel honored during this time to share my own story–of being “green”, and also “greeneh.”
Growing up, green was the color of the aluminum siding on our house and of our painted garage, teeming with a full assortment of scrap—wood, metal, plastic, heavy paper and anything else that might somehow serve a future purpose. Green was the color of the lawn I often mowed, watered only when needed and early in the morning. My Girl Scout uniform was green. And so were the glasses filled with warm tea left out every morning for me and my sisters, the intentional love-filled leftovers from the big stove-cooked pot of tea our Dad filled his Thermos from each day before heading to his job at Gleason Works in our boat-sized American-made Chevy Impala, which he could fix himself.
Green was a shade of envy, too. Envy of the kids whose sandwiches were packed in throwaway Ziploc bags instead of bulky Tupperware that had to be schlepped home. Envy of all the other moviegoers, who got to socialize while waiting on line for buttered popcorn while we rustled through an over-stuffed tote to access a re-used plastic bag full of white kernels, air-popped at home. Envy of my friends whose families hired plows to remove their snow while we bundled up in hand-me-down snowsuits and shoveled all day.