He tells me how she glares at him the entire time he’s emptying his pockets of the day’s finds onto their kitchen table. They’re things he’s picked up from the sidewalks during his walk home from his tailoring shop in town. She remains silent until he’s finished. He explains to me how upset she gets by his finds, something he simply can’t understand or agree with. She begs him to stop picking things up from the ground because they’re dirty. But even if they aren’t, there’s no way to know where they’ve been or who touched them.
I hear their debates about the finds, clothing mostly— gloves, hats, scarves, sometimes sweaters. His face assumes a seriousness suggested by his raised bushy eyebrows. He’s learned, after many years of finding, that there actually are “finding” seasons —spring is the best one when the snowmelt is greatest, a time when items hidden during winter reveal themselves. Occasionally, he brings her a book, a pen, a bracelet, even a wallet once. She reminds him that it was one thing when they collected clothes from the ground in the camps, a time when they all were starving and always cold, but no more. She won’t allow it. She needs to forget those times.
She wants nothing to do with anything evocative of the camps, of unimaginable brutality, her loss of family, dignity, and her abandoning any belief in god or humanity. They’re in a new life in America and must forget. He turns to me in his effort to gain my sympathy and support. She’s always angry with him for always reminding her of past suffering and hardship. But he knows that one glove is better than no glove because she always could put the ungloved hand inside her pocket where it could stay warm. Yes, the hat might be dirty but at least it won’t have lice and besides, can’t she just wash it?
They weren’t my parents when they were engaged in finding, nor were they even married to one another and not to anyone else. Neither did they even know each other having grown up and lived in different countries. They also were in different camps. He explains to me that they really weren’t completely alive when they were having to find anything that might offer them warmth or a greater chance of survival. Most likely, they were walking, breathing skeletons. He married her — the woman of damaged body and traumatized mind. And she agreed to marry him, also of damaged body and traumatized mind. They never could have married anyone but for one another. Who else could possibly understand? They both know that in a different life with a different past, they would have chose differently.