I practically skipped into my favorite frozen yogurt shop, Serendipity, which i waited eagerly to visit over my beach vacation in Bal Harbour, Florida.I love everything about the shop. The wholesome flavors, frothy quaint decor and the cool and perfect creaminess of the ice cream. I ordered my favorite, mint chip and decided since it was vacation, I'd be liberal with the cookie crunch toppings. It was perfect. Serendipity
As I began to dig in I jumped when I heard, "This is where i usually sit, you're sitting in my seat."
I hadn't noticed the tall older man enter the shop. I quickly grabbed my purse, got up from the chair, and apologized in a surprised frenzy.
"You know you don't have to run away from me," he said. "sit with me" he offered in a slight accent. So I helped him with his walker and took a seat across from him. "half decaf and half regular." He told the pretty woman behind the counter. He asked me what I do and I explained the case of my extended vacation. He laughed and told me to marry someone rich. I asked him what he was doing in Florida even though I knew most elderly people migrated there for the winter, (which was the case) His name he said was Sam. Sam Pruchno.
"Do you know about the Holocaust?", he asked me without missing a beat.
"Sure," I nodded.
"Do the kids in your class know?" Thinking about the history class I'd taken this past fall, I shook my head. Not all of them. He then told me that he went to college in Germany. He spent his whole life as a successful mechanical Engineer but now he was retired and he painted. Trying to make light of our ice cream topic- the holocaust- I asked him what he liked to paint. "Pictures of the death march" he told me. Then I realized that not only was Sam wanting to tell me about the holocaust, but he was curious to see how much I knew..
"Have you ever heard of the St. Louis Ship? I painted it... there are two statues of liberty one is crying with her head down, the other is waving with her hand up." he told me. The St. Louis was a ship of one thousand Jews that came to the New York harbor. They were so close to docking that they could see people sitting on the dock drinking tea. FDR didn't allow the St. Louis to dock. Many of the immigrants committed suicide and jumped over board.
Sam told me about his children and about Michigan where he lives for eight months of the year. Four of Sam Pruchno's paintings are hanging in the Farmington Holocaust Museum.
Although there is a lot more to say about Sam, I want to share this small story. Sam sipped his coffee and I ate my ice cream. We sat there together, and I thought how a moment ago my mind was occupied with my plans to swim and relax in Miami, while Sam was carrying the weight of our people's shared tragedy.
My heart welled up and I felt a tight ball building in my throat.
Sam clearly had a need to share with others. And I'd like to share this with you.
Wish you a meaningful and joyful Passover.
*Read about Sam's story: here