In May of this year I took my 4-year-old on a Mother-Daughter vacation. Sunglasses on and curls all askew, we drove the 4 hours from our house to the picturesque town of Stowe, Vermont. The drive across the border into Vermont is absolutely breathtaking, and on cold mornings you can actually see fog rising out of the tree-covered mountainside and joining with the clouds above that are so close you could almost touch them if you reached out of your window.
After the gorgeous drive our first stop was The Ben & Jerry’s tour, followed by a picnic lunch and an afternoon at the local cider mill. As we explored the town I pointed out things that might be interesting to my daughter. “Look, there is an art studio where they make hand-blown glass!” followed by, “Wow, did you see the size of that deer? It was almost big enough to be a moose!” As we ventured through the town we stumbled upon the Trapp Family Lodge, so just like with everything else we had seen I pointed it out to her as well. “Baby, see there? That is the Trapp Family Lodge. There was a famous movie that you haven’t seen yet about the Von Trapp family, and when they left Europe and came to the United States they came here to Stowe.” I said.
“Why did they leave to come here?” She asked.
“Umm, well…” I stumbled, unsure of how to explain Nazis and WWII to a child so young. “There was a really bad guy named Hitler. He was the worst bad guy ever, and he decided he hated a bunch of people, especially Jewish people, and he was hurting people in Europe where the Von Trapp family lived. He had a bunch of guys who worked for him and they were all very mean to everybody. The Von Trapps escaped to come here to keep their family safe.”
Her eyes widened as she locked eyes with me in the rearview mirror. I heard her incredulous whisper from the back seat. “But mom, I’m Jewish! Do you think Hitler wouldn’t have liked me?”
Overwhelmed, I pulled into the parking lot and stared at the lodge for a moment, trying to think of the right thing to say. Sadly, knowing that this was my daughter’s very first exposure to the concept of Nazis and what they stand for, I said, “Unfortunately I think he would have, yes. Hitler and the people who worked for him were awful, horrible people.”
She looked out the window at the lodge, pausing for a moment to take a sip from her juice box. “Well, they’re nuts because I’m great!”
I gave her a big smile and said, “You are great, baby. You’re the greatest!”
After we pulled out of the parking lot and continued on our way she said, “You know, maybe those people shouldn’t have listened to that guy.”
“I think you’re right about that one, kiddo. Are you ready for the farmer’s market?” I asked.
“Yay, peaches, peaches, peaches!” She yelled as we drove toward the parking lot full of colorful tents.
She really is the greatest.