Copyright 2019 by Kathryn Lynch
This is a
story about hunger which is never relieved, never goes away no matter
what advantages persons might achieve by the single minded pursuit of
the American dream. It is a true story, a sad story, one which made
me realize how lucky I was to call this country home. All of the
participants in this story have now died except for the author. Let
this telling honor them.
retired from the practice of law, I moved to a small, rather remote
small city in northern California. I knew no one in that city, nor
did anyone know me. After years of trying to solve the problems of
others, it was a time for me to experience a quieter life.
months of peaceful rest, a widowed friend and I decided to explore
the burbs of southern California on a long road trip. On a typical
day, we drove no more than 200 miles, followed by a reasonably priced
dinner and a night in a local motel. The next day we visited the
village shops and parks before moving on.
So it was,
that we arrived in Chino, California one late morning, checked into
a motel and thought about lunch. “I have two friends who live
here, a married couple”, said my companion. “Maybe they
could join us for the meal.” We met up with them in the
parking lot of what they described as their favorite restaurant.
Both were short and carried the extra pounds of late middle age.
Each spoke with heavily accented English, switching easily into
Spanish as they conversed with the waitress about the order. They
did not appear to be Hispanic and when our English conversation
covered many topics, I concluded that they were both well educated.
soon as the order had been placed, all casual conversation shut down,
The man began to wonder aloud about the food, complaining that it
was slow to arrive. The woman echoed his complaints. Each showed
signs of stress. Hands shaking, they picked up the silverware,
striking the table repeatedly, as small children sometimes do before
being stopped by their parents. Inquiries about the status of the
food increased in volume until other customers stopped their own
conversations to watch. There was little the food servers could do
to speed up the process because it was noontime and the restaurant
was crowded. I wondered silently how this couple could fail to see
this delay as inevitable.
At last the
food arrived. Our guests placed the silver back into previous
positions on the table, and using their hands grabbed up large
quantities of fries, shoving them in their mouths, a number of fries
falling from overcrowding. Dropping their heads into the plates, the
hot beef sandwiches complete with gravy, were consumed with
incredible speed, much as a large dog might eat a meal. Both made
growling-like intake noises as they ate, enhancing the performance
viewed by a large number of persons at surrounding tables in deathly
plates were empty, our guests reached for the food ordered by my
friend and me, assuming that our open mouthed observations indicated
that we were not going to eat our food. The animal noises began anew
as our plates were emptied by devouring hungry mouths wolfing down
every scrap that made up the orders. The meal ended when all four
plates had been licked clean.
area had fallen silent. I estimated that the crowd who had witnessed
this display numbered about 70, As social conversation began again,
the eyes of these diners never left our table, searching for an
explanation. That would not be forthcoming, because as soon as they
finished eating, our guests rose from the table, paid the bill, and
drove out of the parking lot in a late model car.
was that about?”, I asked my friend, as we prepared to order
more food. She explained that the couple were born and spent early
childhood years in different areas of Poland. Each was caught in
World War II Nazi sweeps of Jewish families, ending up in
concentration camps. One by one family members grew feeble and
tired. One by one each disappeared into the gas chambers. Our guests
matured into their teens and were put to work where they remained
doing hard labor until the end of the War, when they were rescued
with stunted height, frail thin, half starved, unable to stand for
long periods of time, largely mute from the horrors they had seen and
survived, neither with any living relatives.
GI's took them to repatriation centers where camp residents were fed,
clothed, and eventually relocated. These centers were supported
largely by Christian churches from South America so the bulk of
survivors with no relatives eventually settled on that continent.
Our guests met, married and lived for several years as citizens of
Argentina. During that time, they went to college where each earned
a bachelor's degree and they became the parents of three children
Both still desired to pursue the American Dream in the U.S.A. so they
applied themselves to learning English.
So it was,
that in the early 50s the family of five arrived in Chino, California
as refugees from Argentina. The parents worked hard, became American
citizens, and as the years passed, they bought and furnished a home.
Each owned a late model car. All of their children had graduated
from California colleges, and they were now grandparents several
times over. They had retired from long held jobs, and now they
lived comfortably on money in the bank that they had saved.
shared membership with them in the same Christian church. She found
her Christian-Jewish friends full of rich experiences which they had
conveyed to her in fluent but heavily accented English. They had
never previously shared a meal.
The day we
met at the restaurant, Moses and Sarah Rosenstein had been out of
the Camps for more than 50 years.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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