I must have been five... Maybe even four, as I don't remember any baby brother around. Memory has a way of tricking you and mixing times up, but that's not the point – the point isn't accuracy. The point is what I remember. Either way I was small, and just making sense of the world. I remember a warmth around me, the feeling of being loved and protected. It was a warm summery day and a marvelous ray of sunlight come in through the door, accompanied by a light breeze and the smell of freshly cut grass. Maybe it's memory playing tricks on me again. It could just as well have been extremely hot and dry, but that's how I generally remember the kibbutz, any kibbutz, and it must have a grain of truth to it if just the thought of it brings back the instant sensation of that smell and that warmth. Being that small meant I got to be blissfully unaware of any complicated history, life struggles or pain. I got to just appreciate that moment and was accompanied by another group of small beings - chicks. Someone had given me little chicks to care for. They came in an open box - one of those large open cardboard boxes with holes for handles and no top. The kind you can find in small grocery stores, packed with vegetables or small bread rolls. They seemed to be quite free to go where they pleased (or so it seemed in my four-year-old mind), but were tiny and fragile and had to be protected. I had no idea where they really came from or how come I got to have them, but I remember my relative, an elderly man, gave them to me with a great big smile. There were a few of them, but I don't remember how many. They were small and soft and rapidly walking around in that box, bumping into each other and chirping. They were different-colored, though I can't say today what color they were. They must have been even more unaware of their location or context than I was. They were probably just a few days old or less. I didn't think of where their parents were or where they were taken from. I just thought they were cute and somehow, through the smiles or gestures of the man who gave them to me, I got the feeling that taking care of them was something special. I don't remember if I had them for a day, a few days or maybe just a couple of hours, but I do remember they disappeared at once, mysteriously, and I naively want to believe they went back to their mommy, and didn't suffer with little me. I have no way of knowing and will never know, but for some reason this memory, the almost tangible feelings of wonder and warmth, stuck with me all these years, torn out of context and reason. What I did learn more about, years down the line, was that elderly relative I had always happily called uncle. He was all smiles and warmth, as far as my little-self could perceive, and I had nothing but positive feelings toward him, but he wasn't a blood relation of mine, as it turned out. I never knew this until years later, a long time after he had passed away.
I think of those chicks, and myself and my son, and I wonder what memories might randomly be ingrained in my son's little brain. This perceived randomness is, of course, up for dispute. What moments will he get to then look back at and break into small, complicated pieces? You see, that moment held in it so much more than I had imagined or might dare to try to understand. I was there with my uncle because he was dear to my grandmother, the one I had never met. At such a young age, I'm not sure I even realized I had a grandmother I had never met. It wouldn't have mattered to me if the nice man was my uncle or friend or teacher. I got a clear message that he was dear and important, and would treat me kindly, and that was fine by me. Yet today, I wonder what he saw in me; this little girl, the first new generation of women in my family, surrounded by love and excitement and unaware of thoughts such as "what would she have felt about this little granddaughter?", and "would she have imagined her daughter and granddaughter here in the kibbutz, smiling and laughing together?", "did she imagine her own family's future?". What he might have felt and thought, I now got the chance to speculate about, years after discovering and reading through the many, almost daily, letters my grandmother wrote to him from far away in Long Island, New York. I'm only at the start of a journey, and it is a journey that looks backward and forward and even tries to feel the present, in the middle of it all. It is a personal journey that will probably never makes sense of it all. Yet if it gathers together pieces of me, random pieces, ones that don't always fit, then maybe it will help me look forward, or add to the story that my son or future children might someday read themselves and choose to learn from. Possibly, there was a deeper reason I remembered that moment with the chicks. It must have been one of the first moments I understood I could get attached to other beings and they might then disappear. It might have stuck as a confused and bitter-sweet moment in which all those feelings of warmth and protection do not prevent the deeper intuition that it is also sad. Those chicks came from somewhere and disappeared to somewhere, and aside from what a catastrophe the experience could have been for them, it could have been a first realization for me. Someone you care for could disappear and not return. You will never wholly understand where they went to. You will never fully understand how you felt. They're gone. Or maybe I sensed that bitter sweetness in the air, as this uncle's smiling eyes looked at me and perhaps saw sparkles of my grandmother who went away and won't return, sparkles that at the same time can burn holes in the past that can never be filled and burn hope in the eyes of the young, newly born.