“Is Betty Simkovits your maiden name? Do you know a Bayla Simkovits? Her brother was Dovid.”
The text came in via Facebook chat, after I indulgently accepted the stranger’s request to connect. Normally I only lurked on social media, but I felt elated lately, ready to speak to anyone and everyone after finally landing a full-time role as an associate professor of ancient history at the University of Toronto.
“Does your family come from Poland or Germany? My father was already a teenager before the war and went into hiding in the former Czechoslovakia. He died of breast cancer last year. Yes, I know, a man dying of breast cancer. The odds were not in his favor.”
We called her Tick Tock because any familiar name sounded too cruel.
My five-year old granddaughter came up with the name. Once she heard me whispering about “titkos,” meaning secret in Hungarian. I thought she didn’t pick up any of the Hungarian words I tried to teach her but this one, this one she did.
My sister called me this morning, as she does every morning. My little granddaughter sat beside me at the kitchen table eating breakfast so I spoke cryptically about visiting the hospital, worried her big ears would pick up on something they shouldn’t. I told my sister I would bring my special chocolate sponge cake with chips. It was light enough to melt in your mouth.
“Are you visiting the Tick Tock today, nagymama? Can I come?”