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Chapter from autobiography by Bella Stern, 1980

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1980
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In this chapter, Stern describes her upbringing in Russia and fleeing to Poland. It is accompanied by a letter to the publishing company William Morrow.

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jhp000247
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jhp000247. Bella Tyktin Stern Papers, 1939-1997. MS-00296. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada. http://n2t.net/ark:/62930/d12f7nb6v

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August 18, 1980 Bella Stern 1618 Eastwood Las Vegas, NV 89104 (702) 457-2547 William Morrow & Company 105 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10016 Attention: Hillel Black Re: Synopsis Dear Mr. Black: Enclosed please find the first chapter of a book approximately 200 pages long. It deals with my experi?ences during and after the First World War, particularly Russia and Germany during the earlier days of Hitler, conditions in Palestine and my first years in this country. Your comments would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Respectfully, Bella Stern BS:mis Enclosure as stated BELLA STERN "I don't like this corridor, Papa, it's so terribly long and grey. And it's so dark. Why are all those windows painted so dark, and why don't they open them? Are these all patients' rooms here on the right? Are all the other floors just the same? Where is Mummy's room? Oh, look, what is that, over there?" "A nurse, little one. And, please, do speak low." "But she sure looks different than the nurses of the Red Cross in Bialystok. Her dress is just the same grey as the walls. And why does she rustle so when she walks? And that thing on her head is so beautifully stiff and winglike. She certainly could not have nursed during the war; those poor soldiers would think, 'there comes a bat'?" "Well, many years ago this was a convent, daughter, B. Stern Page 2 and the nurses have kept their habits. I think that all the nurses here are nuns. You'd better ask Mummy's nurse. She will explain everything to you properly. She is very nice and likes children very much." "How do you know? There aren't any children, here, are there? "No, the children's unit is in the next wing, but Uncle Doctor asked her to nurse Mummy and keep an eye on you." "Well, then you will just learn to speak German quick?ly. You already know how to say, 'good day.'" "Oh, and a lot more." "So, there you are. Here is Mummy's room. She is a bit upset, so don't tell her that you don't like it here." "I know, Papa. I won't upset Mummy. But you won't stay away too long, will you? You know, we'll say 'Good bye' right now. Have a good trip, and lots of luck." Papa kissed me and gave me a long look without speak?ing. I understood that with this look he gave me his farewell speech, words that wouldn't come in this oppres?sive corridor with those multi-colored windows. Then he straightened up and put his hand on my shoulder. I didn't cling to his leg, I didn't brush my cheek against his hand, I didn't even look up at him. I knew that his hand had to be very strong and hard right now and I was B. Stern Page 3 just as grown up as Papa. When he opened the door, his hand released me and a laughing little girl ran to her Mummy. Sickrooms and chloroform odors weren't anything new to me; I liked them. The difference was that I knew it all from the war without hospitals, without order and not so much cleanliness, not enough doctors; dead-tired nurses. Even the odor was not as clear and clean as here. For this little almost-six-year old this first real hos?pital was oppressive. I was not used to so much order nor this type of patient. I only knew wounded people. And when Mummy was sick, it was something very serious. To bother about petty, ordinary things you just didn't have time. One time I had an abcess on my head. The Russian "Feldsher" was not permitted to practice. Papa was not allowed to ask one of the German doctors who were present then to do anything for me. But we went walking one day and "by chance" met the Feldsher in a doorway. He made a little incision, pressed some cotton over it, then covered it all with my knitted hat and gave Papa a few instructions. Then we just continued our walk. I didn't ask many questions; there were always so many things that simply had to be done. When I wanted to make myself important before my mother and my grandparents by mention?ing that I had not shed even one tear, it was made very B. Stern Page 4 clear to me that I was not to mention anything about it, even at home, because someone might hear me, though I spoke Russian. Things of this kind happened too often, so I didn't make myself important about things which, after all, didn't seem out of the ordinary to me, because I simply didn't know anything else. One thing I simply couldn't understand: why I was made to eat that infernal porridge all the time. What torture that was I Not only for me but for the whole family. To begin with, I would be put into my highchair with the frontbar tightly closed. My father had prepared the cereal himself, because nobody could make it just right, except he - according to him. Most of the time he would take his jacket off for this herculean task. The entire family positioned themselves in the room to be on hand. Papa would then start talking to me, telling me all manner of things, the possible and impossible. He would extend his hand holding the spoon with the cereal, which had been cooled by blowing on it, towards my mouth but could not find it. My head would go to the left when the spoon caught up with it, it would go to the right and wait expectantly for the spoon. Just to make sure, my lips were firmly pressed together so that nothing could get in, even if the spoon did touch my mouth. This went on until the cereal didn't have to be blown any more to cool it. Papa became upset, the cereal B. Stern Page 5 was warmed up, the family was asked to retire to another room and a towel was brought in from the bedroom. Now things turned bitterly serious. That much I knew already. If I moved my head aside for too long, the towel was aimed at my hands or legs. I ate the gruel. And next time this game started all over again. To this day I can't even look at cooked cereal. Sometimes we were interrupted in this peaceful pur?suit. After all a war was going on, the only life with which I was completely familiar. We, in Bialystok were in a precarious situation. The city was located in that part of Russian territory which Poland was trying desper?ately to annex. At the same time Bialystok was also in an important access strip for the Germans. At least im?portant enough to have been ready with troops and material at the very perimeter of town immediately after the war declaration. One thing you have to grant them: Russians, Poles and Germans took care not to let the war become boring. Before we could get weary of one occupation troop, another one was already marching in. We particu?larly disliked the Posnianziky. Their dirty-green, twin-pointed caps with the insignia rakishly pulled down on the right side fitted in well with the criminals' faces under them. Their insolent eyes looked around threateningly. Woe to the head, partially hidden behind the window, if those eyes didn't like it. B. Stern Page 6 "Well, now, this damned Russian face up there won't laugh at us much longer I" The rifle, always at the ready, flitted the bullet through the glasspane before the fear-distorted face behind it realized what was happening. The marching buddies continued to stomp ahead quite at ease. Even though they were used to such things some mouths were distorted into a wry grin. A few quick, trained glances to make sure that there was no furious pair of eyes to witness this and in the next moment the column turned into a sidestreet. We lived in a very big house in one of the best built complexes with iron double gates at the entrance downstairs heavy ironbolts at the front and back entrances and iron window shutters. The first thing I learned, when I was able to stand on my legs, was never to go near a window by myself, though I was still too small to reach the sill. During the early war days we never knew who was occupying the town, until it was finally confirmed by rumor and talk. Later, we learned to recognize the different uniforms. Also the battles were being fought closer to town. Nat?urally, everybody tried to keep as well informed as possibl on all political events. Later on, the Germans, when it was their turn again to occupy the city, detailed the officers and some of the enlisted men to various homes. Billeting! Now there was something for me. A few days before we received our "quota" I was standing on B. Stern Page 7 tiptoe at the window and looked down on the troops as they marched by. I did not recognize the uniforms and there?fore I was curious enough not to follow instructions. I did know one thing: these were not the hated Posnianziky. I was holding my new doll. She was a little Japanese which Papa had been able to dig up, God knew where, as a gift on one of his trips. I was absolutely crazy about her. She wore a real kimono with a huge waistband, had tar black hair artistically piled high and decorated with flowers. She was very flexible; her arms and legs con?sisted of several pieces. And she was yellow, very yellow. She had never seen any marching soldiers, so I explained to her everything that I knew or thought I knew. All of a sudden one of the soldiers barked a command. I jumped, and because I was not too well balanced on my toes, my little Japanese doll fell from my encircling arm, and the fine procelain was shattered into small bits. My crying brought Mama. She said those were German soldiers. That didn't mean a thing to me, except that I was terribly angry at them. But I had looked at the uniforms well enought to recognize them the next day. We were in the city park where Mama had taken me for a walk. The citi?zens were permitted to leave their homes at given hours as long as they behaved. I was still not over my loss. In my hand I held a piece of yellow porcelain with a few strands of black hair which I tried very hard to hide. B. Stern Page 8 As we came near our favorite bench I wanted to run toward it when I saw one of the grey uniforms from the day before sitting there. I whirled around to Mama and made it very clear that I would not sit on the same bench, under any circumstances, with "that man". "He was the one who shouted that ugly word yesterday, that startled me so. He is guilty that Geisha is "kaput"." The officer must have understood something, because I had forgotten that you were not supposed to do it and had pointed at him with all my fingers in my indignation. He came up to us with a smile. My mother knew her hot-blooded daughter and gripped my wrist hard. In a low voice she told me quickly to behave myself, at least for the moment. My mother spoke German quite well, and, very composed on the outside, she told the whole story. Later I overheard her telling my father, that she had been afraid underneath that she could not convince the officer of the harmlessness of the whole affair. However, it seemed she had done very well, because he tried desperately to become friends with me. He bent down and offered me his hand with a 'Good day, little miss'. My mother put my hand, which she was still holding, into his. Funnily enough I liked the sound of the words, 'good day', and made my curtsy. At this moment there was nothing more important than to learn to say 'good day'. Mother tried to explain to me what it meant, but I insisted on calling every German a 'good B. Stern Page 9 day'. In time, the 'good days' and I became good friends. A few days after the encounter in the park we got our first billeting. Since our home was one of the best in town, the biggest "muck-a-mucks" were quartered with us. There was also the fact that my grandparents, as well as my parents, spoke German, and to tell the truth, I must admit that I, too, was an attraction. Unfortunately, we had to give up our music room with the black grand piano. I did not quite understand what it meant to have billeting, and that first evening after the officers had moved in I started to cry when Mama would not go with me into the music room to play and sing before I went to bed. They finally promised me to talk to the 'good day' and ask his permission for Mother to play for me for a little while. Of course, it didn't work out for just 'a little while'. If nothing was happening in his quarters the officer, who now was my good friend, allowed us to play and sing as often as we wished. After I had made myself useful a few times with small services I was elevated to be the second houseboy and had fairly free access to his rooms. I was learning some German and with the help of a few gestures I could understand 'my officer' quite well. The billeting lasted longer than we had anticipated. The Germans were well entrenched around Bialystok and stayed there for almost two years with a few inter?ruptions. Gradually we all lost our fear of each other. B. Stern Page 10 We realized that we had nothing to fear from our 'tenant' and that we could move about the same as before, though more quietly. He, in turn, let himself be convinced that he didn't need to order his meals from the mess, since we did not intend to expedite him into the hereafter with poison. It was a great day when all the women in the estab?lishment were feverishly busy preparing his first dinner with us. The best samovar was taken down and polished so that the engraved miniatures of the tsar and his illustrious family were shining brightly. The coals were fired up at the proper time, so when the samovar finally was set down on the table the water for the tea was boiling. The meal progressed very successfully. But we were quite disap?pointed that the officer would absolutely not drink any tea. He gazed at the samovar appreciatively and closely watched Papa pour a glass of tea; he watched, perhaps even closer, how we drank the tea. In honor of the occasion I was permitted to sit in my high chair at the table and was drinking my tea with the greatest pleasure. That was just too much for him. "How can you give the child something like this to drink?" Everyone tried to be polite and not too surprised. My grandfather explained, that in principle it was the same as coffee in Germany. Oh, yes, people drank tea as B. Stern Page 11 well in Germany, but not with all those ashes in the water! At that, we could no longer control our laughter. Even though I did not understand what it was all about, I laughed with the others. Papa was the first to recover and brought another samovar from the kitchen. He explained the simple workings of the big round container and finally had permission to offer a glass of tea to our guest. He in turn finally acknowledged that he was fascinated by the fact that in spite of all the ashes the tea remained so clean and clear. Of course, I had to know what it was all about and from then had enough material for teasing. Thank God this officer had a good sense of humor, otherwise it may have gone badly for us. From then on he enjoyed his tea, even between meals. As his houseboy, I, of course, had to take everything to his rooms. I was not allowed to carry the hot tea, but the dishes and other utensils. One time I had taken too much at once and tried to knock on the door politely. In the next moment I didn't have to worry. My dishes did the knocking for me. My 'good day' opened the door and saw his houseboy standing nonplussed among the ruins. I tried very hard not to cry, because that was not seemly for a houseboy, but my face spoke for itself. The officer laughed out loud, got his camera and snapped my picture before I could run away and hide and cry loudly in the folds of my mother's kimono. I was so upset that I was not punished further but consoled that B. Stern Page 12 broken china was a sign of good luck. I never found out what happened to the picture, but 'Bella in luck' gave him plenty opportunity to revenge himself for my teasing about the 'ashes in tea'. We really had good luck with all the officers who were billeted with us. They enjoyed our friendship as hosts and we their protection. That was a great advantage for us, particularly concerning the ac?quisition of groceries. Among other things I learned about Christmas and the Christmas tree. Our officer bought a small tree and trimmed it to show me what it looked like. He also had some sheet music and with Mama at the piano, he sang a few Christmas carols. I would sit on his knee in the brown wicker rocking chair and let the lullaby put me to sleep. Unfortunately, the German positions were not too solid, and they were routed from time to time by the Russians or the Poles. The short periods of occupation by the Poles let us experience the full merciless terror of war. One did not dare to go near a window or into the street unless it was absolutely necessary. Our home was an asylum for many whose places did not offer enough protection. Our home had always been known for its hospitality; it was a tradition which my father continued. It was so natural to help the many needy that one got a little careless with the groceries, which we had accumulated during the 'fat' months. Our cellar had been cleaned out, because we had learned from B. Stern Page 13 more experienced people that it would be the best bomb shelter. Bombs fell the night I was born. This August night of 1914 had been selected by the Germans for their first bombing experiments. In those days people only had a theoretical knowledge but no concrete understanding of bombs and their consequences, so, with a shrug, they con?tinued routinely to bring me into the world. Our old doctor joked that I came into this world well protected, because I was still in my 'skin', and I was determined to drown out the competition from above with my cries. The fact that our well-lit house was not hit was one of those miracles for which one kept hoping fervently later on. Next morning the first victims were found only a few steps from our home. Dead and wounded in the streets? They be?came very ordinary occurrences for me. When I was a few years old, I knew that all this was very ugly, but cer?tainly nothing to lose your head over. Sentimental fear I never knew. There were special people, doctors and nurses whose occupation and duty it was to help when it was possible, and at least to try, when it was not. It was satisfying as well as exciting for me when Mama tied a towel around my head in the shape of the Red Cross nurses' headgear. I had enough dolls which I could tear apart whenever I felt like it, so that I had a variety of "cases" in my hospital. I did not really know what a B. Stern Page 14 hospital looked like, but it was explained to me that all wounded and sick were put in one big building which was called a hospital. So I laid my dolls all in a row on top of the bed after carefully and systematically binding all their broken pieces together, and then I looked after them diligently all day long. Mama explained to me dip?lomatically that rest was very important, so from time to time I would tell them a story or sing a song, otherwise I surely would have completely torn them up. Sometimes, when a serious case was waiting for me, I would even eat my hated cereal, just so I could return quickly to my patient. One of the supervising Red Cross nurses was a friend of my mother's. Whenever she visited us, to get a little rest herself, I would fairly torture her with my many questions so that I was taken away as quickly as possible. I remembered much of what she told me and of what I overheard when the grown-ups were talking among themselves. I heard of many gruesome things. The concept 'grue?some' for me was not exactly the same as is commonly understood. A child, I learned the language through the practical, living application of a notion. "Gruesome", then, did not have an undertone of "ugly" or "undesired", something that should not be done, something that one should abhor. I lived solely with this concept and did not know anything about the opposite. Many people were B. Stern Page 15 kind to me, but if they had done something "gruesome" to me I would have accepted it as normal. So when I grew up I had an extremely deep revulsion against those cruel war years. Together with this a feeling of natural bravery grew in me; not in the sense of being aggressive, but to remain brave in any situation and not to be fearful of others. There were enough instances to practice and per?fect this quality. In the child it was, of course, a kind of blind bravery, because you couldn't just run away or be a "quitter". This brings to mind one particular instance which was quite characteristic. My father had not been drafted as a soldier because he was shortsighted and could have been dangerous to his own people with a weapon. He was, therefore, put in charge of procurement. This necessitated much traveling, but when he was at home I, of course, followed him like his shadow. One day he took me with him on an errand in town. The Poles happened to be, once again, in "possession" of the town, but everything was quiet and not dangerous for a short walk. Papa had some?thing to attend at the railroad depot. Just before we got there, in a little park, five soldiers surrounded us quiet?ly and skillfully. "Papers, please." They looked them over carefully. "Your daughter?" B. Stern Page 16 "Yes." Papa had been holding my hand strongly, but he let go now for a moment to put the papers back into his pocket This moment was enough for one of the soldiers to push himself between Papa and myself, before I had time to grab father's coat. I stood stockstill, without a sound, my hands in my muff. I told myself that if Papa did not talk to me there must be a reason. I did not understand Polish, and if he had as much as said just a few words in Russian to quiet me down, it would have gone badly with us and maybe with the whole family. Papa answered all the questions put to him. One of the soldiers had been de?tailed to me. He talked and talked. Off and on I under?stood a word, but stayed completely quiet. He was ob?viously getting angrier and angrier, but when he saw that his threats did not impress me, he was finally convinced that I really didn't understand Polish or his beautiful speech. He left me standing there and stomped irritably to the others. Papa had kept his eye on me all throughout I had the feeling, quite rightly, that he was warning me not to run away. So I just stood there. Then I had an idea, I simply walked around the soldiers, went to my father's side and took hold firmly of his hand. I knew he was thanking me with his answering grip. Nothing helped. We had to go with them to the station. I had all I could do to keep step with those soldiers' boots. B. Stern Page 17 Finally, we arrived, more talking - long heated Polish hissing sounds and in between a quiet word from Papa which was so conveniently not heard. Suddenly, the commander turned to me. I didn't understand him and said nothing. But the next words I understood. He told me in Russian to let go of my father's hand. "Why?" "Because your father is going to prison and you can't go with him." "But I am staying with him. He was away on a trip for so long, and I won't leave him." "Then we'll simply have to drag him away." I shook my head vigorously. The shouting became a bit quieter. "Then we shall have to put you, too, in prison and you will surely get sick." "Well, then I must certainly go along, so that I can nurse Papa if he gets sick. I need only a towel around my head; I will show you how to do that. Then I will look exactly like a Red Cross nurse and I can also nurse like one. Shall I show you?" I kept hanging on to Papa's hand. One of the other soldiers took over and threatened to do us harm if we didn't unclasp our hands. He came up to us and with his two hands tried to separate our hands. My head at that moment was just at the right height; I bent down and bit his hand as hard as I could. Evidently I did a pretty B. Stern Page 18 good job, because he jumped back, howling and holding his injured hand gingerly. In complete disgust he then gave the order to put these two barbarians into the same cell, and child or not, I was to be given the same treat?ment as my father. I was completely unconcerned, but Papa evidently did quite a bit of thinking, because when it got dark, he managed to get me up to the opening in the ceiling which served as chimney. Luckily, it was summer and it was comparatively clean. Then he and I proceeded, hand in hand, to climb and crawl across many rooftops and down other chimneys until we found some friends who could and did put us up until we left again the next night to find another place to stop. After a few days, the "Good Days" came back again, and we were escorted home. This incident put us on the black list of the Poles who moved into town for the next several months. It was comparatively a quiet occupation, the citizens were per?mitted to be in the street at certain hours, and there was not much useless killing. However, the Poles saw to it that nobody forgot that it was war and the town under occupation. Transportation of provisions was badly or?ganized and when a train came in with "fodder", the soldiers got it first. From that point of view we were almost sorry that we had nobody quartered in our home, because the Germans had always had enough for us too. On the other hand it was very pleasant to have the whole B. Stern Page 19 house to ourselves. This interval gave us one of those pauses during which I was able to learn what the grown?ups referred to as "peace activities". After supper we would go into the music room. Mama played piano very well and had a nice voice. Most of the time she wore a kimono which was made of the same material as the piano cover. It was all interwoven in many shades of warm brown. The pattern seemed to be one long line that snaked in all directions. I could follow it with my finger without in?terruption around many curves. In the dim light one could imagine a big flat animal on top of the piano; but it wasn't scary. As heavy as the material seemed to be on the piano, as light and clingy was the kimono. The entire kimono was cut from one piece with very wide sleeves lined with a red-gold material. I dreamed of the time Mama would make me a dress from one of the sleeves. I just loved to stand next to Mama when she played. When I snug?gled up to her side my head was just high enough to be brushed by her moving arm. Sometimes I would bend my head so that the woolly material would tickle my neck - which I could not stand when the barber did it with his razor. It didn't take long for me to fall asleep, and Papa carried me to bed. One evening Papa did not come home for supper. Mama and my grandparents were upset and told me curtly that he was on a trip. But I didn't really believe it, because B. Stern Page 20 he had not said "good bye" to me, and I hadn't wished him the traditional "good luck". And then it came to me. "Did they put Papa in prison? Just shows you, he should not walk without me." "Papa is not in prison. What nonsense! He is simply on a trip, and for heaven's sake don't let anyone hear what you think or say. Nobody! Do you hear?" Obviously, something was wrong. Papa was away for quite a while. From time to time I was told that he was sending me kisses and that he would return soon, but when I wanted to see the letter where he sent me his love, I was given evasive answers and I knew enough to play dumb. I just had to wait for his return to find out more. And then, one day, the Poles disappeared and the Germans moved in again, and Papa came back home and explained everything. If the Germans had come even one day later, I would have waited in vain. My father was then managing the brick factory which my grandfather had left him. Of course, during the war, everything was closed down. Only once in a while they worked on an important contract. Almost all workers had been drafted as soldiers, so there were only a few older men working under a foreman; a sly fellow who didn't like my father because he supervised everything very thoroughly. Since my father was well known our little encounter with the soldiers soon got around. And everybody knew from then on the smallest misunderstanding could have B. Stern Page 21 catastrophic consequences. One day, a group of soldiers came to the factory, to "look around". Father was called in to answer all the questions, because the foreman, for some unknown reason, could not leave his house. The yard and the lower floors were ransacked. The factory had been idle for months, and was therefore empty. So it was quite surprising that on the landing to the top floor there were several full sacks. Father did not remember seeing them during his last inspection and so opened one. He was so dumbfounded to find empty munition shells that without thinking he took some out. Aha.' Hiding munitions.' The soldiers could hardly believe how obvious the proof was. While answering some of the rhetorical questions Papa was figuring out what had happened. He calmed down. He knew the layout and the surrounding areas very well, much better than the soldiers. As the column marched back through the yard, the soldiers suddenly discovered that my father had disappeared. He had slipped away, because they had let him walk free, since they were so sure of him. One of the doors led into a neighboring yard, through the cellar into a small sidestreet, which appeared to have a dead end, if you didn't know your way around. But Papa knew his way around and after severl hours he appeared at some friends' house, to let us know what had happened. He changed his hide-away every few hours, to avoid B. Stern Page 22 the searching soldiers. The next day, things quieted down, and he was able to stay in one place for a day at a time. Luckily we had many friends and relatives who were only too glad to help. Our house was, of course, under constant surveillance, and the daily visits by armed men were of no interest to me. After a few days they stopped interrogating me, because I insisted that Papa was on a trip, and because I annoyed them greatly with my incessant questions about the bandages that some of them had. But before they could exercise judgment on us, they had to withdraw before the Germans and leave Papa and us behind. This was to be our last quartering. Unfortunately, the reason for it was not a happy one. Mama took sick. Within a few days she developed erisypilis of the face. Since this is a most contagious disease, it was very dangerous to keep her at home, since the infection usually progressed rapidly over the entire head and the spine and mostly ended in death. Despite everything we tried we could not get permission to put her in the hospital. The local "feldsher" had, of course, no idea how to handle such an unusual case. And the German doctors, naturally, did not want to have anything to do with such a contagious case, particularly, since it was not one of theirs. So, Mama was put into the last room of the long corridor, and Papa locked himself in with her. During the first few B. Stern Page 23 days, he came out occasionally to see if I ate my cereal, and to wave to me "good night". But then I heard from both of them only through my grandparents, or sometimes I heard Papa's voice through the closed doors. I tried to find out what kind of illness it was, so that I could treat my dolls accordingly, but the answers were very unsatisfactory. One evening everybody was extremely upset, and after dark a German came to the house, without uniform, and quickly disappeared in the sickroom. "Was that a doctor?" "Yes, but he is here secretly and nobody must ever know about it." After a long time he left. Nobody had thought about putting me to bed, and in spite of the late hour the excite?ment had kept me awake. And then I was told that I could see Mama. But I should not get frightened and should control myself. "Is Mama getting better?" "No, but you should see her tonight, because we don't know if it will be possible tomorrow." With that I was lifted on a chair in the first room. Since the rooms were all connected in a row, I could see Mama's bed through all the open doors. I just wanted to ask where Mama was, when it became clear to me that this shapeless mass under the covers was, indeed, my mother. B. Stern Page 24 The face and head were bluish