Every day when they worked together, he would tell Liesel his stories. There was the Great War and how his miserable handwriting helped save his life, and the day he met Mama. He said that she was beautiful once, and actually very quiet-spoken. “Hard to believe, I know, but absolutely true.” Each day, there was a story, and Liesel forgave him if he told the same one more than once.
On other occasions, when she was daydreaming, Papa would dab her lightly with his brush, right between the eyes. If he misjudged and there was too much on it, a small path of paint would dribble down the side of her nose. She would laugh and try to return the favor, but Hans Hubermann was a hard man to catch out at work. It was there that he was most alive.
Whenever they had a break, to eat or drink, he would play the accordion, and it was this that Liesel remembered best. Each morning, while Papa pushed or dragged the paint cart, Liesel carried the instrument. “Better that we leave the paint behind,” Hans told her, “than ever forget the music.” When they paused to eat, he would cut up the bread, smearing it with what little jam remained from the last ration card. Or he’d lay a small slice of meat on top of it. They would eat together, sitting on their cans of paint, and with the last mouthfuls still in the chewing stages, Papa would be wiping his fingers, unbuckling the accordion case.
Traces of bread crumbs were in the creases of his overalls. Paint-specked hands made their way across the buttons and raked over the keys, or held on to a note for a while. His arms worked the bellows, giving the instrument the air it needed to breathe.
Liesel would sit each day with her hands between her knees, in the long legs of daylight. She wanted none of those days to end, and it was always with disappointment that she watched the darkness stride forward.
-The Book Thief (Markus Zusak, p. 263?)
The Book Thief is a book that was turned into a movie late last year. Set in Nazi Germany right around the start of the Second World War, the story follows the life of a young orphaned girl and her growing up with her foster family in a small town on the outskirts of Munich. This particular excerpt is taken from the time when the young girl and her foster father are going around painting and labeling certain buildings in the town in preparation of any possible bombings that may be headed their way. This particular excerpt, in the midst of the war preparation efforts, in the midst of hunger and rations, in the midst of poverty and barely making ends meet, this particular excerpt shows how she is able to overlook all of that and focus on the moment and what matters most to her: being able to hang out with her dad despite the madness around them.
But the focus here isn’t on what they didn’t have; rather, it’s about the joy and happiness and contentment in being able to grasp and hold tightly onto the things they did. That last line, about how she didn’t want the days to end, how she always watched the arrival of darkness with a face of disappointment; what a wonderful yet horrible feeling to have. To experience something so wonderful that you just want to live in the moment forever, never watching to move forward from it, to just bask in it until you couldn’t anymore. Dang. What a moment it must be.
It’s been a while since I last felt that. Lately, the only feeling I have regarding my days is, is it over yet, and “if we could just fast forward past the next 2 or 3 years, that would be great.” There’s nothing important to any particular day and there’s nothing exciting to look forward to anytime in the near future.
I vaguely remember the feeling of that feel. I wish I could feel it again.
Notes. Page number approximate as reading on my tablet doesn’t give me the exact page number. And. My comment/thoughts are longer than the block quote. I know. I’m making up for the behemoth that was the previous entry.