As I was reading some of my favorite blogs this morning, I came across Tara Smith's post about yesterday being Anne Frank's birthday. Anne would have been 85 years old on June 12th. She wrote a lovely tribute to her, remembering her spirit of hope during a violent and tumultuous time in history. It inspired me to write my own thoughts about Anne Frank.
I'm standing center in the white blouse.
In 1981, I was a freshman in high school and played the part of Miep Gies in "The Diary of Anne Frank." It was the first exposure I had gotten of who exactly Anne Frank was. I'd heard of her, of course, but hadn't connected to her story yet. When I look at this picture, it fills me with multiple emotions. I was almost 15 at the time, about the same age as Anne when she died. I was the youngest cast member and was pretty much in love with all the senior boys in the play. The compact and intimate set was built on an elevation, and only accommodated an audience of 85, giving the whole atmosphere an intimacy that made us all close. At the age of 14/15, all emotions are heightened. Everything is felt intensely and profoundly. I could feel Anne's palpable spirit while rehearsing this play, this capture of her young and extraordinary life. I understood how she felt about the world, love, and hope. I felt all those things, too. I just happened to live at a time when all those dreams and emotions could be kept safe and realized. We rehearsed every scene over and over, but the ending, when the Germans discover them, and you can hear them pounding on doors, running up the stairs, and yelling, "Shnell! Schnell!" it gave me chills, and tears sprung every time. At the very end, Frank Otto is talking to Miep after the war, and he is the only survivor. He is holding Anne's diary, and Anne's voice reads, "I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart." Otto shakes his head and says softly, "She puts me to shame," and the lights fade. So heartbreaking and yet so hopeful. Beautiful.
Curtain call - I'm second from the right
The program - you can see pin holes in the top where I had hung it on my corkboard in my bedroom.
I had the great fortune to visit Anne Frank's annex when I visited Amsterdam in 2010. It is the kind of experience that is difficult to put into words. There is an unmistakable felling of both profound sadness, but also joy there. I was especially moved by her room, where she had pasted pictures on her wall. They were still there.
I was also stuck by Otto Frank's observations about how a parent doesn't really know everything about a child. This video was playing at the end of the tour.
Last year, along with millions of other people, I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Last weekend, I saw the movie. I ended up going by myself. Augustus and Hazel go to Amsterdam, and one of the scenes is their first kiss in the Anne Frank Huis. This scene is controversial and has received criticism for poor taste. While I do understand that some people may cringe at the first kiss and the applause that happens - a happy, romantic scene in the midst of tragedy, I believe it's exactly what Anne Frank represents. She was a young, sensitive girl, so she experienced and wrote about confusion, pain, and heartbreak. But mostly, she wrote about hope and goodness. We all need more of that.