Mother-­daughter trip

Nana B and Zeide once ice-­skated

on a lake in the Carpathian Mountains in Poland.

I was made for Poland,’ says Mum, as Brisbane

roils with heat. But we are not headed

for my great-­grandparents’ homeland;

we are journeying to Geelong.

Mother-­daughter trips are good for the soul,’

says my shrink. Don’t talk to any strange men,’

says Dad. It’s the first time Mum’s travelled

without Dad since their wedding in 1981 –

seven hours by taxi, plane, shuttle bus and train.

We could have flown to Japan.’

Our sense of direction is legendary

for leading us astray at every turn.

We walk down the same street three times.

Do you recognise where we are?

I was born for the Shtetl.’

I imagine her in a small Eastern European

village deep in history’s memory, a train ride

away from the ice-­skating lake. I see her following

pathways requiring no compass or map;

see her dancing from rooftops with Chagall,

green donkeys, violins.


Author’s note: ‘Mother-­daughter trip’ references the word Shtetl, which is Yiddish for ‘town’. In Eastern Europe, these small villages had large Jewish populations before the Holocaust. Families would often live in the same Shtetl for generations.

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