Selections from the "The Sandgame" That Relate to Growing Up

1. Taking responsibility for Mrs. Lachover's baby:
The only interruptions came from Mrs. Lachover's baby daughter, whom we had to take care of and hide with us if there was danger. Although Mrs. Lachover and Aunt Stefa lined the walls of our hiding place with quilts and pillows to sound-proof it in case the baby should cry, she never did. We liked feeding her better than cleaning her behind, which we made each other take turns at. One day Mrs. Lachover went out with her baby to bring some food to her mother and never came back.
(Sandgame, Page 30.)

2. Flight to the world of fantasy but being aware that it's fantasy:
One day I made up a story that everything that had happened - the war, the ghetto, the Holocaust - was a dream. I was the son of the emperor of China, and my father, the emperor, had ordered my bed placed on a large platform and surrounded by twenty wise mandarins. (They were called "mandarins" because each had a mandarin orange attached to the top of his hat.) my father had ordered them to put me to sleep and make me dream what I did so that when I became emperor myself one day I would know how terrible wars were and never start any.

My brother never tired of this story. Whenever anything scary or dangerous happened to us, he would ask for it. He was even ready to trade any of his generals for it, except, of course, Robin Hood. If I didn't have time to tell it all - how the imperial court looked, what I ate for each meal, the way I ordered around the servants - I made do with reassuring him that we were living in a dream. Once, when I was eleven and he was nine, we were caught on an illegal excursion outside the ghetto by two Germans in civilian clothes. They brought us to the ghetto wall, stood us against it, and drew their pistols to shoot us. My brother tugged at my sleeve. I knew what he wanted and whispered: "Right, I'm dreaming it."
(Pages 31-32.)
3. Encountering the death of beloved figures:
My mother fell ill and her entire left side was paralyzed. She was taken to the Jewish hospital in the ghetto. We stayed with Aunt Stefa. The night before my mother lost consciousness she was lying in bed and her head was hurting her more than usual. They thought I was asleep and were talking between themselves. My mother said: "What will happen to the children if I don't pull through?" "Don't worry, Zofia," said Aunt Stefa. "I will take care of the children." Then my mother said: "Stefa, keep them with you always, for better or worse."
Aunt Stefa made this promise to my mother and was as good as her word.

In January 1943 the Germans killed all the patients in the hospital who could not make it to the trains. Aunt Stefa did not say anything to me. I didn't ask. And I did not say anything to my brother.
(sandgame, Page 33.)

4. The need to write a diary and poems:
Although I had already written my first poem when we were hiding in the attic room in Warsaw, it was only in Bergen-Belsen that I began to think of myself as a poet. I wrote a lot of poetry and sometimes read it to the grownups, who gathered in the barracks to hear it. From then on I planned to be a writer when I grew up.
(Sandgame, Page 42.)
5. The need to control younger siblings and the world in general: In Paris we were put up in a fancy ten-story hotel. My brother and I had a room on the seventh floor and felt like royalty. We had a modern bathtub, lots of mirrors, a huge double bed and red carpets. Our sandwiches were ruined, though, because someone had sat on them on the way. I gave my brother a command to find a garbage can to dump them in, but he refused to obey it. In punishment I gave him ten more commands, but that didn't help either, and in the end I had to empty the squashed knapsack myself. Since I didn't know how to work the elevator, I walked down the stairs until I came to a door that opened on a dark alley, looked around to make sure that the coast was clear, and dumped the sandwiches on the pavement. Any Frenchman seeing me would have said: "Those dirty Jews," but who cared? We were going to Palestine. I went back to our room, found my brother taking a bubble bath and jumped in with him.
(Page 44.)