All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Day 4: The "Cholent" Park

It’s been an emotional day.

We drove to Antwerp, the city where both my parents were born and made our way to the Jewish cemetery in Putte, Holland, where I was able to go to the graves of my grandfather, great grandfather (after whom I am named) and great-grandmother, who shares her name with my mother. I’d last visited in 1993 and fifteen years flows by incredibly quickly.

We came back to Antwerp and I had a need to revisit the park of my youth, the “Cholent” Park as we call it, which lies in the centre of the city.

As a small child, my mother used to take me to Antwerp about every three months and I virtually grew up in the park. I can’t even innumerate the number of times, we crossed the road from my grandparents flat at 16 Rubenslei and entered the park, past the grand statue to the duck pond, which is long gone. At the pond, I used to meet my friends as they came out of Shul (Synagogue) on Shabbat mornings.

So many memories.

I’m glad to say that the park hasn’t changed much in 30+ years. Where there used to be a green patch, there now lies a wonderful children’s play area, the type that I wished would have existed when I was young. Sand has replaced the grass, but it is the still the same skyline I remember from those bygone days. The pathway around the duck-pond (sans ducks) has been pushed back and there is more green space. In fact, it is a much nicer place than it used to be! However, the memories can’t be erased or even defaced that easily.

I found the apartment where my grandparents used to live and even managed to get into the lobby. I stood there, memories gushing back to the time when we had to empty the flat when my grandmother came to live with us in England in the late 1970’s. How strange to be back accompanied by one my daughters. Bizarre, yet wonderful at the same time.

I left Antwerp, sadder than when I’d entered. Somehow I felt that once again, I’d reburied a little element of my past life in the shallow grave of my memory.

I know it’s the not last time I’ll return to either the Cholent Park or 16 Rubenslei.

1 comment:

Daniel E. Levenson said...

Great post. When you have a moment I'd like to invite you to visit a new online Jewish journal that I publish called The New Vilna Review ( which is dedicated to exploring themes of modern Jewish identity from both an individual and a communal perspective. Perhaps you'd be interested in writing a longer piece about the experience of going back to these places from your childhood?

-Daniel E. Levenson
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
The New Vilna Review

-Daniel E. Levenson