Rose M. Solomon

And Then, Charlottesville


Once we were home and unpacked and the suitcases put away after a long period of assorted comings and goings, my husband and I basked in the afterglow of all the good memories our summer had given us.  The Boston and Cape Cod trip with my sister and brother-in-law — our first attempt at couples travel not attached to family gatherings –had put a fun finishing touch on their silver wedding anniversary celebration and left the four of us looking forward to future trips together.  A vacation week sharing a Delaware beach home with my husband’s family – including not only his grown sons and our granddaughter but also his ex-wife and her husband – had gone more smoothly and forged stronger family connections than anyone could have hoped for.  Our final road trip of summer brought us together with still more cherished family and friends, launched by the wedding of a young couple so obviously in love they made their guests feel as giddy and awestruck as newlyweds themselves.  Watching them under their chuppah, I felt once again the tingle of happiness and promise I had felt when Ron and I stood under our own canopy a dozen years before.  The wedding glow followed us home,  a perfect ending to what we agreed was a celebratory summer.

And then, there was Charlottesville.

I could not tear myself away from the news reports that August weekend.  What was I witnessing here?  A historic university town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia spun into a cauldron of venom and violence. Images of horror burned themselves into my mind. Men in camouflage marching in formation with assault weapons.  Fistfights.  Rocks hurtling through the air.  Panic-stricken people scattering in every direction as a gray sedan barrels into the crowd and then, bumper hanging, speeds in reverse from the scene.  Bodies on the ground.  Faces frozen in fear and horror as the minds behind them try to comprehend the carnage.  And one image hanging dark and penetrating over all the others: throngs of smiling men – young men, many of them – marching, marching, flaming torches held high to split the night, chanting, “You will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!” And over and over, “Hail, Trump! Hail, Trump!” accompanied by the Nazi salute.

Just a mere six weeks earlier, my sister and I stood on a pristine, peaceful Cape Cod beach on the first anniversary of our mother’s death. The surf rolled in and out, whitecaps foaming and receding under a blue summer sky.  Gulls twirled and called and canvassed for fish.  A gentle breeze ruffled our hair.  Mom loved the beach, any beach, so this was a fitting place for us to remember her and honor her life.  Arms entwined, we said kaddish for her, the Hebrew mourners’ prayer, as is traditional on such an anniversary.  Our tears carried a swirl of emotions: loss, grief, love for her and for each other, gratitude that we had had such a mother.  We took for granted, I think, that we could do this on a public beach.

And then, there was Charlottesville.