Searching for Fritzi Redux

November 8, 2011

My mother turned 99 on October 21 and there is much I want to continue to do and say to honor her long and eventful life before she dies. When we are together, I read her the newspaper. We discuss the world’s events: the economic crisis, Qaddafi’s end, the opera. Unable to see very well or to hear very much, we take our time and try to remain patient—both of us—when there are misunderstandings. Mostly, my mother enjoys being read to and then to discuss what I have read to her. And I will usually end our visits with some poetry which leads us easily into thoughts about love, death and the next generation. My mother still cares a lot about her children and grandchildren, how they are doing, what the future holds for them.

In 1999, I published a small memoir about our Viennese family which began with an oral history and ended, more or less, with an addendum to the book in 2008 when Michael Ramsey, an officer in General MacArthur’s occupation army in Japan, contacted me to let me know that he’d met our cousin, Fritzi Burger, an Olympic ice skating champion, in Tokyo in 1945. She had married a son of the Mikimoto family and had spent the war years in Japan. As the book was already published, I wrote up the addendum as an article and sent it out. Eventually, it was published—in English—in a small Austrian publication and I also put it up on my website as a locked PDF file. In my once-monthly Google myself session the other day, I found that locked file on the internet for all to see. I called Mike Ramsey in Abilene, Texas and we agreed that such availability is for the best; the information in that article should be disseminated as part of the historical record. Mike is in his mid-80’s now and our lives are as different as eggs and cheese. But we are well bonded over the Fritzi story. Mike sent it out to a friend who works for Julia Roberts and he’s hopeful it will one day be a movie. And so, as I spoke to him, I knew that my search for Fritzi, metaphorically speaking, was not over. It had just entered a new phase.

With the relative ease and success of my first e-book, “Water Baby; Five Novellas,” I have decided to revise and update “Searching for Fritzi” and release it as an e-book with the addeundum as a final chapter or epilogue. I was frustrated at first because all the files for the book are on floppies and I have no floppy drive. No matter, I decided to type it into a new file and this re-working, looping backwards to move forwards, has enabled me to massage the prose and make it better. I’ve learned a lot about writing a strong memoir since 1999 and I have also learned more about the subject and about myself in relation to the subject: genocide.

And so I began, tentatively, at first, and then with a great sense of freedom and purpose. I’m up to Chapter 7 and am pleased at how it’s going. Stay tuned.

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