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saluting Miep Gies

Cuteness alert: just came back from a visit to Riverdale Farm, where the Francey Barn, my favourite place in Toronto, is now housing two three-day old lambs in the sheep pen with their very curly mother and all the other warm, wooly sheep. Mum is a dirty white and the lambs are black with dustings of white on body and head – as if someone with floury hands had held both up and dipped the ears of one in sugar. The kid triplets in the next stall kept standing on their hind legs to peer over the divide and check out the cuteness competition. Just what the soul needs in January – new life at the farm. Highly recommended.

I learned in the paper today that a great hero has died, at the age of a hundred: Miep Gies, one of the righteous Gentiles who helped keep the Frank family alive in the “house behind” in Amsterdam until, tragically close to the end of the war, they were betrayed and hauled away to die. Miep gathered the papers left behind in the house, including a red checkered notebook belonging to young Anne that she refused to read, hoping, I suppose, that Anne would come back to claim it and want all her secrets intact.
Instead, Anne’s father published the diary in 1947 (after it was turned down by several publishers as too banal and childish); it has since been translated into 65 languages. I talk about Anne to my classes, reminding them, when they’re discouraged about the unimportance of their own stories, that Anne Frank was a small girl with a notebook who believed in writing things down and who changed the world.
Miep risked her life daily, bringing food and news to the Franks. She is quoted as saying that she did not want to be considered a hero, because people shouldn’t think you have to be a hero to “do your human duty.” “Who is a hero?” she said. “I was not. I was just an ordinary housewife and secretary.”
Oh, for more ordinary housewives and secretaries of limitless compassion and courage. She was indeed the best kind of hero, and I salute her.
My Ryerson term started last night, all those brave souls out on a bitter Monday night, and coming back for the next nine, to learn how to tell their own stories. Thrillingly, one of them reintroduced herself, telling me that she’d taken my course in 1995 or 6, my first or second year of teaching. I’ve learned so much since then about both writing and teaching that it’s hard to imagine what I actually said and taught in those early days. But she assured me that she learned a great deal back then and is back for a refresher course.
The membership count for Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament is now 171,307. Though it’s growing so fast, that count is not nearly enough in a country of almost 34 million people. To a hide as thick as Harper’s, it’s a laughable mosquito bite. How how how can we get through?



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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