یکشنبه بیست و هفتم سپتامبر سال 1942

کتاب: آن فرانک: خاطرات یک دختر جوان / فصل 12

آن فرانک: خاطرات یک دختر جوان

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یکشنبه بیست و هفتم سپتامبر سال 1942

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Dearest Kitty,

Mother and I had a so-called “discussion” today, but the annoying part is that I burst into tears. I can’t help it. Daddy is always nice to me, and he also understands me much better. At moments like these I can’t stand Mother. It’s obvious that I’m a stranger to her; she doesn’t even know what I think about the most ordinary things.

We were talking about maids and the fact that you’re supposed to refer to them as “domestic help” these days. She claimed that when the war is over, that’s what they’ll want to be called. I didn’t quite see it that way. Then she added that I talk about’ ‘later” so often and that I act as if I were such a lady, even though I’m not, but I don’t think building sand castles in the air is such a terrible thing to do, as long as you don’t take it too seriously. At any rate, Daddy usually comes to my defense. Without him I wouldn’t be able to stick it out here.

I don’t get along with Margot very well either. Even though our family never has the same kind of outbursts they have upstairs, I find it far from pleasant. Margot’s and Mother’s personalities are so alien to me. I understand my girlfriends better than my own mother. Isn’t that a shame?

For the umpteenth time, Mrs. van Daan is sulking. She’s very moody and has been removing more and more of her belongings and locking them up. It’s too bad Mother doesn’t repay every van Daan “disappearing act” with a Frank “disappearing act.”

Some people, like the van Daans, seem to take special delight not only in raising their own children but in helping others raise theirs. Margot doesn’t need it, since she’s naturally good, kind and clever, perfection itself, but I seem to have enough mischief for the two of us. More than once the air has been filled with the van Daans’ admonitions and my saucy replies. Father and Mother always defend me fiercely. Without them I wouldn’t be able to jump back into the fray with my usual composure. They keep telling me I should talk less, mind my own business and be more modest, but I seem doomed to failure. If Father weren’t so patient, I’d have long ago given up hope of ever meeting my parents’ quite moderate expectations.

If I take a small helping of a vegetable I loathe and eat potatoes instead, the van Daans, especially Mrs. van Daan, can’t get over how spoiled I am. “Come on, Anne, eat some more vegetables,” she says.

“No, thank you, ma’am,” I reply. “The potatoes are more than enough.” “Vegetables are good for you; your mother says so too. Have some more,” she insists, until Father intervenes and upholds my right to refuse a dish I don’t like.

Then Mrs. van D. really flies off the handle: “You should have been at our house, where children were brought up the way they should be. I don’t call this a proper upbringing. Anne is terribly spoiled. I’d never allow that. If Anne were my daughter. . .”

This is always how her tirades begin and end: “If Anne were my daughter. . .” Thank goodness I’m not.

But to get back to the subject of raising children, yesterday a silence fell after Mrs. van D. finished her little speech. Father then replied, “I think Anne is very well brought up. At least she’s learned not to respond to your interminable sermons. As far as the vegetables are concerned, all I have to say is look who’s calling the kettle black.”

Mrs. van D. was soundly defeated. The pot calling the ketde black refers of course to Madame herself, since she can’t tolerate beans or any kind of cabbage in the evening because they give her “gas.” But I could say the same. What a dope, don’t you think? In any case, let’s hope she stops talking about me. It’s so funny to see how quickly Mrs. van Daan flushes. I don’t, and it secredy annoys her no end.

Yours, Anne


Dearest Kitty,

I had to stop yesterday, though I was nowhere near finished. I’m dying to tell you about another one of our clashes, but before I do I’d like to say this: I think it’s odd that grown-ups quarrel so easily and so often and about such petty matters. Up to now I always thought bickering was just something children did and that they outgrew it. Often, of course, there’s sometimes a reason to have a real quarrel, but the verbal exchanges that take place here are just plain bickering. I should be used to the fact that these squabbles are daily occurrences, but I’m not and never will be as long as I’m the subject of nearly every discussion. (They refer to these as “discussions” instead of “quarrels,” but Germans don’t know the difference!) They criticize everything, and I mean everything, about me: my behavior, my personality, my manners; every inch of me, from head to toe and back again, is the subject of gossip and debate. Harsh words and shouts are constantly being flung at my head, though I’m absolutely not used to it. According to the powers that be, I’m supposed to grin and bear it. But I can’t! I have no intention of taking their insults lying down. I’ll show them that Anne Frank wasn’t born yesterday. They’ll sit up and take notice and keep their big mouths shut when I make them see they ought to attend to their own manners instead of mine. How dare they act that way! It’s simply barbaric. I’ve been astonished, time and again, at such rudeness and most of all. . . at such stupidity (Mrs. van Daan). But as soon as I’ve gotten used to the idea, and that shouldn’t take long, I’ll give them a taste of their own medicine, and then they’ll change their tune! Am I really as bad-mannered, headstrong, stubborn, pushy, stupid, lazy, etc., etc., as the van Daans say I am? No, of course not. I know I have my faults and shortcomings, but they blow them all out of proportion! If you only knew, Kitty, how I seethe when they scold and mock me. It won’t take long before I explode with pent-up rage. But enough of that. I’ve bored you long enough with my quarrels, and yet I can’t resist adding a highly interesting dinner conversation.

Somehow we landed on the subject of Pim’s extreme diffidence. His modesty is a well-known fact, which even the stupidest person wouldn’t dream of questioning. All of a sudden Mrs. van Daan, who feels the need to bring herself into every conversation, remarked, “I’m very modest and retiring too, much more so than my husband!”

Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous? This sentence clearly illustrates that she’s not exactly what you’d call modest!

Mr. van Daan, who felt obliged to explain the “much more so than my husband,” answered calmly, “I have no desire to be modest and retiring. In my experience, you get a lot further by being pushy!” And turning to me, he added, “Don’t be modest and retiring, Anne. It will get you nowhere.”

Mother agreed completely with this viewpoint. But, as usual, Mrs. van Daan had to add her two cents. This time, however, instead of addressing me directly, she turned to my parents and said, “You must have a strange outlook on life to be able to say that to Anne. Things were different when I was growing up. Though they probably haven’t changed much since then, except in your modern household!”

This was a direct hit at Mother’s modern child-rearing methods, which she’s defended on many occasions. Mrs. van Daan was so upset her face turned bright red. People who flush easily become even more agitated when they feel themselves getting hot under the collar, and they quickly lose to their opponents.

The nonflushed mother, who now wanted to have the matter over and done with as quickly as possible, paused for a moment to think before she replied. “Well, Mrs. van Daan, I agree that it’s much better if a person isn’t overmodest. My husband, Margot and Peter are all exceptionally modest. Your husband, Anne and I, though not exactly the opposite, don’t let ourselves be pushed around.” Mrs. van Daan: “Oh, but Mrs. Frank, I don’t understand what you mean! Honestly, I’m extremely modest and retiring. How can you say that I’m pushy?” Mother: “I didn’t say you were pushy, but no one would describe you as having a retiring disposition.”

Mrs. van D.: “I’d like to know in what way I’m pushy! If I didn’t look out for myself here, no one else would, and I’d soon starve, but that doesn’t mean I’m not as modest and retiring as your husband.”

Mother had no choice but to laugh at this ridiculous self-defense, which irritated Mrs. van Daan. Not exactly a born debater, she continued her magnificent account in a mixture of German and Dutch, until she got so tangled up in her own words that she finally rose from her chair and was just about to leave the room when her eye fell on me. You should have seen her! As luck would have it, the moment Mrs. van D. turned around I was shaking my head in a combination of compassion and irony. I wasn’t doing it on purpose, but I’d followed her tirade so intently that my reaction was completely involuntary. Mrs. van D. wheeled around and gave me a tongue-lashing: hard, Germanic, mean and vulgar, exactly like some fat, red-faced fishwife. It was a joy to behold. If I could draw, I’d like to have sketched her as she was then. She struck me as so comical, that silly little scatterbrain! I’ve learned one thing: you only really get to know a person after a fight. Only then can you judge their true character!

Yours, Anne


Dearest Kitty,

The strangest things happen to you when you’re in hiding! Try to picture this. Because we don’t have a bathtub, we wash ourselves in a washtub, and because there’s only hot water in the office (by which I mean the entire lower floor), the seven of us take turns making the most of this great opportunity. But since none of us are alike and are all plagued by varying degrees of modesty, each member of the family has selected a different place to wash. Peter takes a bath in the office kitchen, even though it has a glass door. When it’s time for his bath, he goes around to each of us in turn and announces that we shouldn’t walk past the kitchen for the next half hour. He considers this measure to be sufficient. Mr. van D. takes his bath upstairs, figuring that the safety of his own room outweighs the difficulty of having to carry the hot water up all those stairs. Mrs. van D. has yet to take a bath; she’s waiting to see which is the best place. Father bathes in the private office and Mother in the kitchen behind a fire screen, while Margot and I have declared the front office to be our bathing grounds. Since the curtains are drawn on Saturday afternoon, we scrub ourselves in the dark, while the one who isn’t in the bath looks out the window through a chink in the curtains and gazes in wonder at the endlessly amusing people.

A week ago I decided I didn’t like this spot and have been on the lookout for more comfortable bathing quarters. It was Peter who gave me the idea of setting my washtub in the spacious office bathroom. I can sit down, turn on the light, lock the door, pour out the water without anyone’s help, and all without the fear of being seen. I used my lovely bathroom for the first time on Sunday and, strange as it may seem, I like it better than any other place.

The plumber was at work downstairs on Wednesday, moving the water pipes and drains from the office bathroom to the hallway so the pipes won’t freeze during a cold winter. The plumber’s visit was far from pleasant. Not only were we not allowed to run water during the day, but the bathroom was also off-limits. I’ll tell you how we handled this problem; you may find it unseemly of me to bring it up, but I’m not so prudish about matters of this kind. On the day of our arrival, Father and I improvised a chamber pot, sacrificing a canning jar for this purpose. For the duration of the plumber’s visit, canning jars were put into service during the daytime to hold our calls of nature. As far as I was concerned, this wasn’t half as difficult as having to sit still all day and not say a word. You can imagine how hard that was for Miss Quack, Quack, Quack. On ordinary days we have to speak in a whisper; not being able to talk or move at all is ten times worse.

After three days of constant sitting, my backside was stiff and sore. Nightly calisthenics helped.

Yours, Anne

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