However, my second journey to the Dreamland Ballroom; to see Ella and Louis in their heyday, was more than a dream, because regardless of how dramatic and realistic dreams are, there is nothing tangible to retrieve from them. In addition, I did retrieve a wonderful memento from the Dreamland Ballroom; the entry ticket, which I still had in my box of special memories, and my wonderful talisman, my pendant; my sparkling diamond.
Then I had lost it in the barn. Not lost it, but given it to that little family. That little family who were on the verge of being persecuted, and would almost certainly have lost their lives in atrocious conditions for the simple crime of being born Jewish.
I felt myself becoming emotional as I did when I thought of them. They becoming more and more frightened and confused; listening to me bringing out disgusting details of a future that they could not quite grasp in its horrific magnitude.
Tears started down my face and my hand flew to my neck to feel the reassuring shape of my talisman, which had only recently hung from the chain there. Nevertheless, it was gone. I gave my beautiful diamond up with no regrets, as I had known that without its enormous value, the German marks that the father had secreted in the car would not be enough. Even the money that they could use by the sale of the car would be used for food, and shelter. Moreover, without the car, would they not be able to travel so easily.
This was a little family in a strange area. Perhaps someone would recognize them as being Jewish. However, had I given up the precious pendant needlessly? Had they returned to their homeland perhaps walked into the hands of the Nazis? Had they gone to Poland, Holland, or France?
I knew that the Jews had been rounded up in those countries; they were crammed into concentration camps. I imagined the horrors of the Polish gas ovens. Had my attempts to help been fruitless and had the cruel hands of some greedy official snatched the pendant? Did they make it to England or America as I had tried to persuade them to do?
I spent days thinking of these poor people. I had only met them once; had only known them for a few brief hours. I did not even know their names, except for the boy, Helmut and his sister, Sarah. The kind farmer and his wife; obviously were friends of the family. I knew them no better. My mind ran around and around in circles.
I even began to hate the Victrola. I felt that I had to have someone or something to blame. If it had not been for the Victrola, I would not have had a window opened onto a part of history that was so bestial. If it were not for the Victrola, I would not have become an unwilling part of that awful story. However, slowly, through my tears and frustration, light began to break through -ever so slightly. Some light was breaking through the gloom.
The farmer and his wife and the barn were so familiar to me. I think I had realized as soon as they had brought the Victrola in and placed it in the barn that it was the same barn; the same Victrola, which my parents had bought from the old farmer in 1968. Could it have been the same farmer? He was an old man… The farmer in the barn had been a young man, of course to a young girl, he was an old farmer even back then.
Suddenly cold fingers clutched at my heart. Perhaps the farmer had attempted to contact the cousin in England. Perhaps there had been no news. Perhaps if he had been informed anytime during those thirty-one years, that poor family had not escaped the Holocaust. So after years of guarding the Victrola, he had at last sold it; knowing that his friends were never going to return. I went into the room where my Victrola stood. I love that room. I thought my best efforts came to nothing.
I tried to persuade them to leave, and at first, they were reluctant to go. Then I persisted and persisted and I think I convinced them that they were in danger. But when I disappeared when only the grandmother and Helmut and Victoria were in the barn, listening to the Victrola…
They probably thought, this mad woman, comes and goes, and not to be trusted. And then, perhaps, they had gone home, not prepared for the worst, and…I started to cry. I had tears of regret that I could not save that family. I felt tears of childish self-pity because I felt so ineffectual. Moreover, I felt somehow cheated that I had given up the pendant and that some other greedy person would have taken. Then, I felt like a cold heartless woman, because the loss of pendant had even entered my head. I had given it up before, I thought, and willingly, because I was hoping it could help save that little family's lives.
Then I slumped onto the sofa, and put my head in my hands and sobbed, almost uncontrollably, because I felt powerless.
After more time than I care to remember, I sniffed; wiped my nose with a hanky; dabbed my eyes and looked around me. The Victrola sits in the corner of a very large living room. It is near the brick fireplace, which runs all the way to the ceiling. The overstuffed chair and sofa is a deep maroon Italian leather. An antique rocker is in the opposite corner near a large picture window that looks out to the garden. The living room is decorated in mauve and olive green. There are wooden floors.
It is a lovely area, and I am lucky to have this. I know it, but for some reason, at that stage, I felt resentful of having my own creature comforts, when I thought that that little family had had any chance of that snuffed out.
Suddenly I shot to my feet. In a few steps, I crossed the room and lifted the lid of the Victrola. My eyes flicked backwards and forwards; searching. Then I saw it, the little tray for the needles. I tried to remove it. It would not budge. I forced my fingernails against the side where it fitted flush against the walnut. There was the tiniest creak of wood against wood, and the tray popped up; scattering the wood playing needles over the surface of the playing area.
There, nestled in the shallow cavity where it had lain, was a piece of paper; folded twice. A page ripped from a small address book. I unfolded the little page and, with my heart fluttering in my throat like a trapped bird, I read the four lines written neatly in pencil:
Mr. & Mrs. Francis Taylor,
Rectory Lane, Lower Marlow,
So many years ago, a fourteen year old boy had hidden that little page from his mother’s address book under that little needle tray, saying : “No one will see it there.”
Now I had it in my hand. I let out the breath that I had held for what seemed like ages, and then dropping back onto the sofa, I found myself sobbing again. Then, gradually recovering, I realized I was trembling all over. I clasped my hands together to stop them shaking so violently.
“I can’t ignore this. I have to find out what happened to them… even if it’s bad news,” I said aloud.
First, I had to take something to calm me down. I considered opening a bottle of wine, but put that idea at the back of my mind. “Coffee,” I said. “Come on girl. You have work to do. You can think about wine later.”
I went into the kitchen to make myself a coffee and then took it into the study and turned on the computer. I tried a Google search using all the words from the address written on the piece of paper. My searching became fruitless. The only thing I learned was that “Bucks “is short for Buckinghamshire, and Bucks or Buckinghamshire is in England. There was not a Francis Taylor who matched any of the other details; “The Gables” is the name of so many houses in Bucks and apparently thousands in England. There was not a ZIP code to go on, because their version of a ZIP code came in much later. Many Rectory Lanes exist and Lower Marlow is an old Market Town. This was all very educational, but it did not help me much, and anyway, Mr. & Mrs. Francis Taylor would probably be dead by now, or moved away somewhere.
Nevertheless, I was not going to be deterred. I had very little to go on apart from the fact that the particular Mr. and Mrs. Francis Taylor (well, one of them) had Jewish cousins who lived in Germany in 1937, which was before the Second World War. They had three children: a boy, Helmut, his sister Sarah and another child who was probably born in about 1937. They had said that they might try to “escape” to England to be with their cousins there, and that was in about 1937.
I gathered up this scanty information and looked at it, and thought, this is not going to be easy.
I wrote it all out in a letter and looked at it again. Looking at it like that it looked so pathetic, but it was my only chance. I had finished the letter with, the simple question: “Are these your relatives? And if so, do you know if any of them escaped from the Holocaust, and if they did, are any of them still living?”
I wrote in my e-mail address, my home address, and my telephone number, and sealed it. Then I put a stamp on it and posted it. As I did so, I said a fervent prayer to God for help… and strangely enough, I did not know whom I wanted God to help.
I waited for exactly three weeks and then, on a bright sunny morning, I looked in the mailbox, and right on the top of a pile of junk mail and pamphlets for “Free Astrological Readings” and offers to “Clear Your Garden – Limited Time Offer” and the like, was a cream envelope addressed to me. I looked in the top left hand corner; it was from Caroline and Thomas Taylor, and the same address I had posted my letter to three weeks before.
I took it into the kitchen, and, waited almost with baited breath for this letter for all those days, and now that it had arrived, I was frankly too scared to open it. My heart was beating as if I had run around the block at least a couple of times. I took a knife out of the drawer and carefully slit the envelope open’ opened the letter and read:
Dear Mrs. Thompson,
I am happy to inform you that all three “children” are alive, and well, and living in America. You will also be excited to know; they live only a couple of hours from you. We have contacted them on your behalf and them, and we, look forward to you contacting them. Thank you for your care and concern. I have enclosed their number so that you may contact them. Sorry we took so long to reply, our aerial broadband has had to go to Aerial Broadband Hospital so we had no Internet for ages and we thought we would write; it being far more personal.
There was a telephone number and address enclosed, in a town, which I knew I could reach, by car in three hours maximum. The letter had been signed by someone who had called herself simply, Caroline, and “Tom”, obviously the Thomas Taylor, had written, “Good Luck, and may your God be with you, and one, or both of them had added a couple of kisses.
Right away, I did not want to waste any more time and I called Helmut, Nathan, or would it be Sarah? I was not sure whom I would find on the other end of the line:
“Hello,” a man’s voice answered.
“Yes, this is Julie Thompson; I am hoping to speak with Helmut, Nathan, or Sarah,” I said.
Suddenly there was an eerie silence but then the man’s voice said, “Mrs. Thompson, this is Helmut.”
I was suddenly without words, and tears formed quickly in my eyes.
“Helmut, I am so excited to have found you, I would like to come for a visit if I may.”
Helmut did not stutter and said, “Oh yes please come!”
Helmut and I spoke for a few more minutes and arranged that we should meet Sunday week. I could not believe it when I found out they were living only a couple hours from me. I would make the drive and it would be the longest two hours of my life.
Sunday came before I knew it and I was up very early. I could not sleep the night before. I dreamed of being in the barn; seeing the family, and giving them my diamond. I took a quick look at the map and, I knew I would be there in no time.
I finally arrived in the little town of Kemper. It was a small farming town and not much to behold. I passed a Quickie Mart, a Texaco gas station, and I began to look for Cedar Creek Road. At the edge of town, just as I thought I had missed it, I saw the sign on the left. I turned in and began to make my way a couple miles down a paved road. There were very nice brick homes all lined in a row, with about one-acre tracts. Helmut told me that I would know his house as it was red brick with pale yellow shutters and trim. There would be one large Oak in the front yard with a swing under the tree. I looked up to see the house sitting there on the right.
As I pulled into the driveway, my stomach was churning. I actually felt as if I may get sick. I sat a few minutes to calm my nerves and then got out of the car. The sidewalk to the door was lined with beautiful, colorful flowers, and it appeared to me as if I was moving in slow motion. I came to the door and rang the doorbell. I could hear a dog bark and a man sternly say, “Hush, Fang!”
The door opened and there stood a man. He looked as if he would have been in his seventies. He was wearing a Texas A&M ball cap. I had to giggle to myself because I thought my “family” had become true Texans to sport such a hat.
“Hello Julie, I am Helmut,” he said with a big grin.
I held out my hand but Helmut grabbed me in the biggest bear hug I had ever felt.
“Come in my dear, please come in,” he said.
Helmut took me into the living room. Two other people were in there waiting; a lady who looked about the same age as the young looking Helmut, and a dashing looking man who looked no more than in his early sixties. These three remarkable fit and young looking people were the three children I had met in the barn on that so, memorable day.
Introductions made all rounds. I knew who they were almost instinctively. But how was I to explain that I was the older woman who had appeared suddenly in the barn, but was now their junior by more than twenty years?
After the introductions, I said, quite simply, “Helmut, Nathan, and Sarah, I would like to have a heart to heart if I may. You may want to sit down for this.”
“Are you well Mrs. Thompson?” asked Sarah.
“Oh yes, completely.”
I started to sweat profusely and I am sure the color was starting to drain from my face as I sat down on a chair; across from my three new friends. I leaned in towards them and clasped my hands together. My knuckles were beginning to turn white. I took a deep breath and began to tell them of how I met them in the barn.
“Sarah and Helmut,” I said, “You may vaguely remember this but I will attempt to try to explain a rather bizarre occurrence that happened to you in the barn; and not only to you; but to me as well. I do not know how to say this but I am just going to just come out and say it. I was in the barn that day. I was the one who gave your parents the pendant,” I said calmly but almost in a whisper.
If you could have seen their faces at that time, all three sat there staring at me with their mouths wide open. They did not move a muscle. I continued to speak in almost a monotone.
“I have a magical Victrola that actually was yours. My father bought it from the same farmer who stored it for your family many years prior to us purchasing it. I think he was the same farmer, but in 1968 when he sold the Victrola to us, he was an older man.”
“One day, very recently, less than six months ago, I played a record on the Victrola and it took me back to that time, in the barn… and to you. I had in my possession, a pendant that I had got from a precious journey back in time. I knew the future for you because I was from your future. Taken from the future, on a magical trip, bringing me to the past, which would be your present. I know this seems as if it is outrageous and I am expecting you to call the police any minute and have me thrown out; but I promise every word I say is true. I could only know details about that time if I was present.“
The three still just sat there unmoving, nonverbal, eyes wide open, staring at me... I continued to talk as long as they would let me.
“I do not want anything from you. I was glad to give you the pendant so that your family could escape. It was my lucky pendant. I knew if you realized its worth, you could be safe and it would help you to avoid the horrors that were to come to the Jewish people in German within a short time. Sarah looked deep into my eyes.
“Mrs. Thompson some things are left unexunexplainable and… ”
Stay Tuned for Chapter 6