Monica Uszerowicz in Avidly:
Grandma Eva was interned in the ghetto with most of her family—a few lucky siblings escaped to the U.S.—for two years before her transport to Auschwitz. She was hungry, as it were, for two years, and would never again understand fullness, even when food touched her lips. When she was alive, she’d tell me the story of her brother, Pesach—named for the holiday—eating a particularly watery soup, shoveling it into his mouth quickly, then tapping the bowl with his spoon. He tapped it loudly, a request for more he couldn’t make with his tongue, because in that same moment, he collapsed and died. She’d spend her time at Auschwitz hiding bread beneath her pillow, hiding the thinness of her frame in clothes that masked her bones. She became little more than a body, and her attempts to transcend the limitations to which she’d been reduced were as clandestine as she was ill. She was a secret who kept more secrets, though there was nowhere for them to hide. When liberation came, it took Grandma a year to recover from her injuries; she stayed in a hospital bed, bound by a metal brace. The doctors fed her apples and wine—the apples strengthened her teeth; the wine, her blood. She was biting into an apple when she heard her sister, passing by the hospital and calling for her, her sister who’d returned from the States to scour Łódź for her familial survivors.
My father knows how to eat, but doesn’t know how to stop. “I don’t have a mechanism that says ‘stop,’” he tells me. “I always ate until I was stuffed, growing up. Now I unconsciously do the same.” Dad will clean his plate, and mine, too. It’s not a particularly healthy habit; it points to the problem of “intuitive eating,” of “eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.” What if fullness is relative to trauma? What happens when your intuition is ancestral?