So Christmas came and went, and Samuel never saw or heard from Ariela again. Their two lives spiraled in opposite directions, and as Samuel grew up to become a partner in the silversmith shop, Ariela gave birth to her first child, a beautiful little baby girl they named Rachel. One of the perks of my job as the historian of all things is that I get to peek in on some of my favorite humans in between world disasters. As Rachel grew up, I checked in on her now and then, watching fondly as she took her first steps, said her first words, and watched the shabbat candles glow with her huge brown eyes filled with wonder.
However, no girl can remain a child forever. One sunny spring morning in 1915, less than a week after her fourteenth birthday, something happened. She was sitting on a log a bit outside the city, watching as a little stream flowed by, when a twig snapped behind her. She turned around quickly, her uncharacteristically blond hair for a Jew swirling around her as she did. There, a few yards away, stood a boy. “Who are you?” she asked, her dark eyes narrowing slightly. “What do you want?”
“N-n-nothing,” stammered the boy, his brown curls bobbing slightly as he spoke. “N-nothing at all.”
Rachel stood up tentatively, staring at him. “Do I know you?”
“Yes, I do,” she insisted. “Your name’s Dan. I’ve seen you in the synagogue and the marketplace. Your father is the one who sells the…”
“S-sausages,” finished Dan, his ears reddening slightly. “The stupid pork sausages. But he isn’t my f-father.”
“He isn’t?” asked Rachel.
“N-no,” assured Dan, sounding as though he were trying to clear himself of some unspoken crime. “He’s my uncle; my father died in the war, and he took me in. My uncle isn’t Jewish like my mother’s family. And, well, he likes pork.”
She laughed. “You don’t have to explain anything,” she assured him, glancing around. “I like to sneak some pork when I’m at a friend’s house too sometimes.”
He grinned, his brown eyes squinting up as he did. “It does taste rather good,” he admitted.
For the next few weeks, the two of them met by the stream every afternoon to talk and play in the cool water, splashing it up into each other’s faces and sinking down on their backs to laugh on the sunny bank at the sheer glory of being the only ones who could hear. Soon the weeks turned into months, and the months into years. But in the early spring, 1920, something changed.
As Rachel left the post office one morning, she came to an abrupt stop at the sound of someone calling her name. She turned quickly to see the now twenty-year-old Dan running up the street toward her. “Dan!” she said, laughing. “It’s only you.”
“Good morning,” said Dan, stopping beside her.
She frowned at the extra lines on his face. “Dan, are you alright?”
“No,” he said quietly. “I’m not.”
“What’s wrong?” asked Rachel, alarmed. “Are you hurt?”
He looked down and sighed. “It’s my mother,” he explained. “You know she’s lived in Berlin with her sister since my father died.”
“Of course,” replied Rachel, nodding. “You’ve read me her letters. Is she alright?”
“No,” he replied slowly, biting his lip as he spoke. “She isn’t.” Taking hold of her, he met her gaze tentatively, searching it. “Rachel, she’s very sick.”
“Oh no!” breathed Rachel, taken aback.
“Yes,” he replied, looking down, “and she’s asked me to return to her.”
“Return?” asked Rachel, uncomprehendingly. “You mean, to leave your aunt and uncle and go back to Germany?”
“Yes,” he replied, hesitantly. “I’m sorry, Rachel.”
“Don’t be sorry!” she insisted, her gut wrenching even as she said it. “Of course you have to be with her. She needs you.”
“Yes,” he agreed, nervously. “But, I’d rather not go… alone.”
Rachel blinked. “What?”
He bit his lip. “Rachel, I want you to consider going with me. As… my wife.”
“Consider?” asked Rachel, laughing in spite of herself. “Dan, I don’t need to consider.”
“So…” prodded Dan, searching her face.
She smiled up at him, searching his eyes with her own. “Yes,” she whispered, wrapping his hands in hers. “I will.”
“No!” shouted her father that evening. “You won’t!”
“But Papa,” insisted Rachel, blushing at his outroar. “Why not?”
“Why not?” asked Ariela, standing from her seat by the window. “Where do we start? Why Germany? Have you forgotten the mess they got this world into? And just last week my cousin in Berlin wrote saying there is a growing anti-semitic feeling in the city.”
“Feelings come, and feelings go,” replied Rachel, stubbornly. “Besides, Dan told me Germany suffered more than anyone after the last war. The last thing they want is another conflict.”
“So says Dan,” scoffed her father, shaking his head. “He would say anything to secure you as his bride. If he is so sure, why isn’t he here now to convince us himself?”
“Because I know you, Papa,” replied Rachel, sighing. “Dan has enough going on right now with his mother being sick and making preparations without having to fight off a tiger too!”
Her father crossed his arms. “We just don’t think you are ready,” insisted Ariela, taking her daughter’s hands in hers. “You are so young, and it’s so far away. How do you even know if he will be able to find work there?”
“Mama,” said Rachel quietly, sitting down with her on the small sofa. “You and Papa had nothing when you got married, and you have never been unable to provide.”
“That’s not true,” replied her father, standing over them. “We didn’t have nothing; we had each other. That’s all we needed.”
Rachel smiled up at him. “That’s right,” she said softly, nodding. “It was. So tell me, is that a blessing you would keep from me now?”
He sighed and turned toward his wife, helplessly. She stroked her daughter’s arm. “No,” she managed. “We won’t stop you. Dan is a good man, and we know that, it’s only…” she bit her lip, her voice breaking slightly, “It’s so far away.”
“You will always be in my heart and I in yours,” assured Rachel, laying her head on her mother’s shoulder. “No matter how far away we are.”
Three days later, in the synagogue where they had first laid eyes on each other, Rachel and Dan were married. The wedding was a humble one, but it didn’t matter. The knowledge that goodbyes were to come was overshadowed by the joy in the air when the two hearts became one. As the small group of family and friends clustered around them to offer their best wishes after the ceremony, Ariela placed a package wrapped in brown paper into Rachel’s hands. Rachel knew what it was before she opened it. There, inside the paper, were the two silver candlesticks.
Ariela closed her daughter’s hands around them. “Teach your children who we are,” she said, earnestly, smiling through her tears. “Never let them be ashamed of it, and may God keep you safe in your life to come.”