Monday, December 17, 2007

The Zookeeper's Wife

Do you ever get the feeling that God is trying to tell you something? I'm feeling a little better from the flare up I was fighting last week. The doctor put me on 15 mg of prednisone a day to help with the pain. Of course what happened is that I couldn't sit still and started to clean up the chaos the house had spun into while I was laid up. I worked Thursday as much as I could, and then that evening while walking in the kitchen, I bumped my foot on one of Mia's shoes. Her feet are so small; the shoe is no more than 7" long. But apparently it has non-skid soles, so when I hit it, the shoe didn't move, and my little toe did. I broke and dislocated my toe so that instead of sitting next to the other toes, it was pointing almost sideways. I tugged it back into place (yes Dad, apparently I am tough enough to play in the NFL, I didn't pass out) and then taped it to the next toe. Five days later, it's black all the way around it, and the bruising goes all the way up to my big toe across my foot. Thank goodness I made an impulse buy last month and bought a pair of sweater slide-ons. They are the only shoe I can get my foot into right now. I'm trying to take it easy now and not take on so much. Message received and acknowledged Lord, can we skip any more broken bones please?

I got Mia's hair cut today. The pictures are before and after. She has lovely long hair that's incredibly fine. With the RA in my hands, it's hard for me to brush it well. So instead of always feeling like a bad mom because her hair isn't perfect, it's now a manageable length. She loves it, and we're both excited about the idea of tear-free mornings. Now I just have to survive the reactions of her grandmothers.

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman is the story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, who ran the Warsaw Zoo in Poland before the invasion by Nazi Germany. The couple, along with their son, Rysz, treated many of the animals as family members. When the Germans swept into Poland and bombed much of the zoo, the couple did what they could to rescue the rest, which meant allowing many of them to be sent to German zoos for safekeeping. Jan soon joined the resistance, and the compound quickly became a safehouse for fugitives and fighters, both animal and human. Antonina had a powerful bond with animals, an innate, almost preternatural way of communicating with them that she was able to use to keep her and her charges safe throughout the war. The book is filled with poignant, tragic scenes. Antonina tucks Rysz into bed while outside German officers go on "safari" killing all of the animals in their cages. When he asks her what the gunshots outside are, she freezes, unable to answer his impossible question. They take a pig into the home and Rysz makes a pet of it until German soldiers mistake it for one of the farm pigs and drag it away for slaughter. Jan and Antonina show amazing episodes of bravery and courage. Jan walks several Jews out of the Warsaw Ghetto right under the noses of guards and helps them on their way out of the country. He also deliberately infects several pigs with worms, then butchers them, and puts the meat into sandwiches for the soldiers. My breath caught in my throat several times at the risks they took because it was the right thing to do. Seeing the war through Antonina's eyes makes it very real, but sometimes Ackerman skims over things that are vital to the story. Jan is imprisoned and Antonina and Rysz flee Warsaw. When they finally return home, the reunion is completely skipped, leaving the reader frustrated. Much of the stories come from Antonina's memoirs, and I wonder if Ackerman would have been better off using more of them throughout the story and letting Antonina tell the story in her own words. A subplot about the Nazi desire to recreate several extinct species including the Auroch and Tapan starts out strong, drops out completely in the center of the book, and then unexpectedly ends the story. It felt a bit out of place without more support. I am inspired by the bravery and humanity of the Zabinski family, and other readers of this book will be too.

My Christmas cards went out today. They are not handstamped, nor are they picture cards. But they are in the mail, so I am grateful to be finished with them.