Realizing Reality

It was all about my father.  The whole trip.  I realized that when I was back in the States and received the CD of my fleeting TV appearance.  The memoir I had writen, Memories of a Mischling: Becoming an American, had hardly been noticed in America where my father was unknown.  Then, thrillingly for me, it was translated and republished in German.  The ten thousand dollar advance seemed like a mark of God’s finger from on high, and the publisher’s words, “Your book is brilliant,” reverberated in my thoughts throughout the following bumpy year of production.

I was satisfied with the competent German translation and remained more or less agreeable through the series of requests: that I send sheet music and lists of titles of my father’s songs; that the book’s German title be altered to recall one of those songs; and finally that I drop my married last name and use only  my maiden name, i.e. my father’s last name.  It’s a PR decision, I told myself, they have to use him to market the book.  But my book is “brilliant,” and soon will be appreciated for its own sake.

Then came the exciting invitation, the trip to Berlin, the week of radio, print and television interviews and the wonderful evening of my readings and musical interludes of my father’s songs in the garden of the Jewish Museum.   The audience was warm and responsive and I signed many copies of my book after the performance.  Afterwards I received a number of good book reviews that made me happy.  I also received a radio reporters script of the event.  He described the setting and the performers on stage: the three musicians and then at a table at one side, “a dainty elderly woman who beamed with pleasure at this tribute to her father.” 

It’s risky to attribute inner meanings to someone’s facial expressions.  My pleasure during that evening was purely selfish; I was happy that my book was being recognized and gave hardly any thought to my father.   But though he was not on my mind,  as I came to understand, he was much in the thoughts of others.  His songs, much more than my book,  had attracted the large audience. 

A lesson in humility and the beginning of my endeavor to better understand him.

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