By Shauna Hoffman https://shaunahoffman.com
She Wore Rose Colored Glasses
It was 1944, she was 13… the Nazi’s had invaded most of Europe. She and her family were in Hungary. “They will never invade here. We are safe. Hungary is safe.” She wore rose colored glasses.
She was dragged away from her mother and three baby sisters by a German SS soldier. She begged and begged to go with them. He didn’t let her. She believed in her heart she would see them again. She wore rose colored glasses.
Auschwitz. Alone. An orphan at 13. She would pretend that her bowl of water with a slice of potato in it was a delicious goulash made of huge chunks of meat and vegetables and scrumptiousness. She loved her rose colored glasses.
She made a new family of 5 teenage girls in the camp who all took care of one another. They watched the elders be dragged away to the gas chambers and together they cried. And when one got really scared she held her tight and she shared her rose colored glasses.
She dreamt of her mom and her dad at night. Memories of playing in the yard with her baby sisters. They all wore pretty dresses with bows on the back. They laughed and played under the peaceful Hungarian sky. Her rose colored glasses worked while she slept.
January 1945. There is a rustle in the camps. Soldiers are scattering. They are all huddled together afraid of what is coming next. But the clouds part, the motorcycles surround them. The voices are not speaking German. They are liberated. “You see” she says, “my rose colored glasses work!”
She came to this country, raised a family and began to share her story with the youth of today. She spoke at Junior Highs and churches, synagogues and living rooms reminding everyone that what she and so many others experienced should never happen again. She would speak to children that were 13 and 14 years old, the same age she was in the camps and tell them to look at one another and see their similarities, not their differences. She would remind them of what comes from hate. Then she would scan the room, try to look in all of their eyes and say, “I know you are better than that”. As she spoke, she could see through the tears of the children and teachers that it was working. The room was filled with rose colored glasses.
Today the Nazis are marching in the streets of our country carrying signs hating the Jews and the Blacks and the Muslims and the Gays. I can hear her voice from the heavens, “Darling, those are just a few people filled with hate and prejudice. Stand up now for what you believe in, what I taught you about love. I promise you if you do then the hate cannot spread.”
It took me a long time to realize that her rose colored glasses were not denial of the truth. They were her strength. Like Superman’s cape it was actually the way she kept herself strong. They were her way to fight the fear that surrounded her. She did not hide away and pretend things were not happening. She used them to believe in the good in people. The good in life. They gave her the strength to go out and change the world… one child at a time. It was that moment I realized that my mom was my rose colored glasses.
And she always said, she “put them on”. So let’s all don our rose-colored glasses and head off to Budapest! I will take you along on the journey where my mom saw Hungary again for the first time since the war.
Our traveling companions were our friends Doc Liza and her beautiful partner Connie. You may remember Doc Liza from my podcast on traveling to Machu Picchu! Let’s just say that I could not have done this trip without them.
My brothers weren’t able to come and I sure needed some help with my senior mom! Besides the fact that they are the best traveling playmates ever!
Without a doubt, I can say that some of our biggest lessons come when we travel with other people. What would you like to do today? No, **you**? Are you up yet? We need to get going! Eh…I’m sleeping in. Wait what? And on and on and on!
Thankfully the four of us got along great. And they were saints helping take care of my mom.
So why am I sharing this trip with you today? Why was it such an important part of my own journey to self-awareness? Because this trip taught me… that inside our parents, no matter what age they are, there is still a child that is begging to be touched.
And if we are lucky enough… we’ll be able to see it. Often it’s a side of them that they have not seen or experienced or touched in years. For some, it is a child spirit that was wounded. For others, it’s a child spirit filled with a light that we haven’t ever seen in our parents because of the responsibility they carried raising us.
My mom always had that light happy spirit even in her darkest hours. It was hard to believe that she lost everyone in her life and lived the horrors of concentration camp.
It was on this trip to Hungary when I saw my mom’s child truly show up! She hadn’t been back to Hungary since she was a young 13-year-old girl. This trip was magical! It was as if time stood still and she was seeing Hungary now through those same 13-year-old eyes.
The little girl in her jumped out and she felt at home for the first time since the war. It then occurred to me that I never understood how much the English language is such a part of my own identity.
Now, where my mom finally felt at home walking these streets, I felt like a visitor seeing this country through her eyes. Though I had always been proud to call myself Hungarian American I really didn’t know my heritage at all! Ok, other than Chicken paprikash and all of the amazing food my mom would cook!
On the first day, we toured all of Budapest where much of her family had lived. She was like a child in a candy shop remembering the times she was there with her family. But it was the next moment that I will never forget. We were in Hero’s Square and there was a quartet playing classic Hungarian music.
My mom ran over to them! Next thing I know she was singing every word along with them! The joy on her face was like light beams shining from the sun! She said she hadn’t heard that song since she was young! Watching her at that moment I saw the child in my mom’s heart. She was transported back to the days when her mom and dad and baby sisters were all alive and they would sing that song together. The days when there was peace in Hungary. The days before the war.
Over the years I had taken on a different role with my aging mom. The caretaker role. The one, along with my brothers, making sure she was safe and healthy. It is a reverse role that we all take on as our parents age. But this experience in Budapest was different. She wasn’t the mom who needed my help to be safe.
Though we did have to make sure as she scurried through the streets with excitement that she didn’t fall! But, she was the girl who she had been before the Nazis infiltrated Hungary. It was a joy I had never seen in my mom before. It was something so personal to her I almost felt like a voyeur watching her experience those moments again. A step back in time. A step back before her world fell apart.
We talk often in the therapy world about how children become parentified. How they are put in situations when they are young to act like the parent and no longer the child in the family. This happens with alcoholic families and abusive families.
It happens when a couple gets divorced and a child takes on a caretaking role in the family. It happens when one parent passes away. For my mom the moment her own mom and sisters were dragged away and she was left alone, she became her own parent. She had no choice at 13 to do anything but grow up. But in Heroes Square the child was alive again!
There was another moment I saw parts of my mom I had never seen before. But this one tore at my heart. We went to the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest. It’s in a renovated synagogue from the 1920s that serves as a memorial and museum honoring the Hungarian Jews, Gays, and handicapped that were murdered during the war.
Though I have heard stories, seen movies, and read everything about the Holocaust, experiencing any of the Holocaust museums takes you through a world that is hard to comprehend. This day broke my heart. It was one I was not expecting to witness. It was the first time I saw the devastation of the loss of her family in her eyes.
We were walking among these huge pictures that were hung in the aisles of the museum. All of a sudden I saw my mom start running from one photo to the next searching in the faces of the men that were being pictured. The Hungarian men who had been taken by the Nazis. She was desperately searching for her father in the images.
They stayed with her through her search. A search that gave her no more answers to what had happened to her dad after the Nazis took him.
Here I was, my mom’s little girl who could not witness the pain of the little girl in my mom. It is a memory I will hold forever.
I think what I want to share with all of my podcast family is that deep in the hearts of our own parents are wounds and joys and lessons we may never understand. Perhaps if we can find compassion with them, we will be lucky enough to see those childlike moments they are willing to share.
I was lucky enough to see them with my mom on this trip. I think if we hadn’t gone to Hungary, I would never have seen them. I was given a glimpse into the soul of the woman who I called my mother.
The rest of the trip was wonderful and filled with so many joyous moments for my mom! We all ate the best Hungarian foods! We traveled to Tokaji and savored the very special sweet wines of the region!
We went back to the village where her Grandpa lived and where her Uncle, Adolf Zukor, who founded Paramount Pictures lived. The Mayor welcomed her with open arms and she felt at home there!
The little girl in her smiled at every turn. But it was the beautiful older Hungarian woman, my mom, who finally found peace. It was a trip to her homeland that brought both sides of her together finally… after all these years. The little girl that was left behind and the beautiful woman that she finally became.
I hope that this journey sparked something in your own consciousness to think about. Whether it is being able to see your parents in a new way, or whether it is a reminder to yourself to always be in touch with that beautiful child within you.
Here is a quote from Mary Ritter Beard that put into words perfectly my experience on this trip.
Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.
To my listeners, May you always be in touch with your own inner child! May you strive to see the child that your parents once were and see if you can heal from their lessons. That’s a heavy ask. Let me repeat it.
May you strive to see the child that your parents once were and see if you can heal from their lessons. May you travel and seek a truth that you can only find when you start on your own journey to self-awareness!
To my podcast family, thank you for letting me into your lives this week and I look forward to popping back in again next time!
SHAUNA HOFFMAN, M.A., MFT, CMC
Shauna Hoffman is an Author, Relationship Specialist, Therapist, Speaker, Podcaster and Coach currently in private practice in Santa Clarita, CA. She is the author of the women’s self awareness book, “Guy Free Working On Me”. Her podcast, A Journey To Awareness, is a deep dive into the true work it takes to look within to follow your dreams, heal your wounds and find real happiness.
Shauna Hoffman Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved.