Happy Birthday, Anne Frank

On June 12, 1942, Anne Frank received a red-checked diary for her 13th birthday, and wrote:

I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.

She details her other gifts with plain, sweet clarity:

You were the first thing I saw, maybe one of my nicest presents. Then a bouquet of roses, some peonies and a potted plant. From Daddy and Mama I got a blue blouse, a game, a bottle of grape juice, which to my mind tastes a bit like wine (after all, wine is made from grapes), a puzzle, a jar of cold cream, 2.50 guilders and a gift certificate for two books… a platter of homemade cookies (which I made myself, of course, since I’ve become quite an expert at baking cookies), lots of candy and a strawberry tart from Mother.

Less than a month later, her family clothed themselves in as many layers as they could stand to walk in and moved to their hiding place in the annex of an office building in central Amsterdam. Concealed by a small bookcase, the Franks lived there for two years until a still-anonymous informant gave them away. The family was interrogated, moved to a transit camp, then to Auschwitz, then the women to Bergen-Belsen, where 14-year-old Anne died of typhus. The same year, Miep Gies, who had protected the Franks, gave the red-checked diary to Anne’s father Otto, the only member of the family to survive. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was published in 1952. Today, Anne Frank would have been 84.

Six years ago, almost to the day, I was traveling through Amsterdam with one more night reserved at the hostel where a polite Canadian couple had constant, impolite sex in the bunk bed above my own. I thought about things that I could only do in that city, and so, in one of my all-time worst decisions, I took a bunch of mushrooms and went to the Anne Frank House just as the sky turned black with rainclouds and then I cried for about seven hours and ate pannekoeken until I fell asleep dreaming about things from that diary that I’ll read about over and over but probably never understand.