Rahul and I watched Midnight in Paris the other night, which was pretty good for a Woody Allen film. The reason I say this is because I’ve found many Woody Allen films to be annoying, but those are also the ones where Woody Allen acted in it as well. I don’t know, but I just find him to be too…Woody Allenish when he acts.
But, regardless, after the movie, Rahul and I got to talking about all the well-known people from the past we would like to meet like Gil does. For him, hanging with the likes of Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein in 1920s Paris spurred his creative thoughts and allowed him to communicate with some of the literature greats. And sure, those guys are great, but for me, I have a bit of a different list, including Flannery O’Connor, Eleanor Roosevelt, John Steinbeck, Anne Frank, and more.
The closest I’ve come to meeting any of the following were through visits to the John Steinbeck museum in California, a Roosevelt vacation home somewhere in Florida (I think) and the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam. I want to write about the last one because, for me, visiting the Anne Frank museum was literally a dream can true. And I know that may sound weird, but let me explain.
I read Anne Frank’s diary constantly growing up. I also went through a period where I was obsessed with learning about her. I checked out virtually every book about her in the library, watched documentaries and movies—anything that was available to research and learn more about Anne Frank, you name it, I did it. Other things on the docket around the same time were the Titanic, the Holocaust, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
But something about Anne’s story got me—it was like when I read her words, I connected to her. She inspired me to keep years of journals. What I loved about her diary was that, even though she was writing while in hiding (even though she had the diary for a month before), what we were experiencing at age 13 was not all that different. We both wrote about clothes, boys, make-up, family issues. Things we liked or didn’t like. That’s what I loved the most—that she was able to find the beauty in life when she was literally unsure about what the next day would bring.
Visiting where she and the other seven were in hiding had been a lifelong goal of mine for a while, and I was disappointed when I had two layovers in Amsterdam during my South Africa trip where we were confined to the airport for fear of not having enough time to make it back for our next flight. However, when I visited Amsterdam with my family on the end of our Italy trip, I found this fear was totally ridiculous because leaving the Amsterdam airport is literally one of the easiest things to do, ever.
But anyway. My family and I only had 24 hours in Amsterdam so, of course, we had to move fast. We visited the Red Light District and an H&M the night we arrived, saving Anne Frank’s house for the next morning. In typical family vacation style, we arrived to the museum early to ensure an early spot in the line. Works every time.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures from inside, but it doesn’t matter. It was incredibly chilling walking up the stairs that led to the bookshelf disguised as a doorway, then up the stairs to the annex. We walked through all the rooms, taking in the black covered windows, the photos of celebrities still taped on Anne’s wall (something I also did myself), the heights of the three children still marked. It was, to put it simply, incredible. After so many years of reading and learning about Anne Frank, someone I felt like I knew, it was surreal to see the last place she lived.
One of my favorite parts was her diary on display. I literally jumped in excitement and then bonded with a few British schoolgirls who were also taking in the red-checked diary in awe. That very moment truly spoke to the effect of her diary—that a girl from Tennessee and two girls from the UK could come together over words written in a diary by a young teenager over 50 years ago. Even though Anne was an aspiring writer, I doubt she ever dreamed her words would become so famous.
Even though my list and Gil’s are totally different, I still swooned just as much walking through Anne Frank’s annex as he did meeting the literary greats in Paris.