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Listen to the complete cycle 

Score Available on Request

~ Lyrics ~

I. Childhood

 

PAINTED PICTURE 

 

Painted picture

Beveled frame

Green eyes laughing

What’s his name?

 

Family portrait

Two plus three

Tiny baby

It’s not me

 

Painted picture 

Beveled frame

Green eyes laughing

What’s his name

 

Victor, Fredike, Bruno

 

SPECIAL CHILDREN

                 

We were special children

We were born together

In central Transylvania

In nineteen forty seven

 

Swam in the Maros

Walked in the mountains

Took waters at the spa

Ate palachinta

Noodles and cabbage

Plenty of paprika

 

We were special children

Often, only children

With many friends and cousins

But very few grandparents

          

Red scarves around our necks 

Sang songs to Comrade Joe

We liked his bushy mustache 

Learned Russian at our school

Learned French at ho-ome

From an impov’rished countess

 

We were special children

We played the accordion

Waltzes from Vienna

In a children’s orchestra

 

Danced at the op’ra

Palace of Culture

Ballet Copelia

Danced for our neighbors

Dressed up in costume

Folk songs Hungarian

 

We were special children

We had special names

We knew that we were symbols

But didn’t know of what

Knew that we were symbols

We didn’t know of what

 

NICHT FUR DIE KINDER

 

Nicht fur die kinder

Grown ups whisp’ring in a row

Not for the children

We always knew, but what did we know

 

We had our sources

Our secret corps

Who told us stories

About the war

 

We mostly heard

About before

When families were big,

No one was poor.  

 

For the stories

The ones we want

We’d go to Gizzy

The maiden aunt

 

Father’s sister

Who knew him when

He had three boys

The oldest-- ten

 

Nicht fur die kinder,

Grownups whisp-ring in a row

Nicht fur die kinder

We always knew but what did we know

 

I once found a book

Behind the pipes

Men in pajamas

In faded stripes

 

What is this

Confusing scene

Better not ask

What does it mean?

 

Nicht fur die kinder, etc.

 

PRETENDING

 

When we were children

We would pretend

We loved pretending

When we were young

 

We pretended we caught Hitler

And we cut his arms

And we cut his face

We pretended we caught Hitler

And put salt and pepper in the cuts. 

 

When we were children…

 

We pretended we caught Hitler

And we scratched his eyes

And we scratched his face

We pretended we caught Hitler

And we left him outside in the cold

 

When we were children….

 

We pretended we were boy--s

And we cut our hair

And we changed our clothes

We pretended we were boy--s

So we’d look like those who came before

 

II. Young adulthood

 

SHIRTS ON BACK

 

Israel, Israel

We’re going to the Promised Land

We’ll be safe, we’ll be well.

We’ll build a castle in the sand

 

We can’t take much

Shirts on our back

Give it away!        

Gone in a day!

 

Like we’re going on vacation

Finally we have salvation

Thank you Jewish organization

Might get German reparation

 

Israel, Israel

We’re here in the Promised Land

We’ll be safe. We’ll be well.

We’ll build a castle in the sand

 

There’s not much here

Shirts on our back

Living in tents

Doesn’t make sense

 

Maybe we should have thought this through

Maybe this is a bit too new

Mother seems a little blu-ue

Is there something that we could do?

 

America, America

We’re going to the Promised Land

We’ll be rich. iI’s the law!

And friends will surely lend a hand

 

We can’t take much

Shirts on our back

But we’ve got cousins

Dozens and dozens

 

Now we’re safe from persecution

Shielded by the constitution

This must be the right solution

Even got our restitution

 

America, America

We’re here in the Promised Land

We’ll be rich, It’s the law

And friends will surely lend a hand

 

Not so much here

Shirts on our backs

But city light

Love at first sight

 

Old world new world hard translation

Parent child confrontation

Not the easiest migration

Yet we love this destination

 

America, America

We’re staying in the Promised Land

We’ll be safe, We’ll be free

It will help us understand

 

 

BE CAREFUL 

 

Down the stairs, be careful

Out the door, be careful

Cross the street, be careful

Vigyaz, vigyaz, vigyaz   (pronounced—veed yaz)

 

They’re scared to death of everything

This fierce new world of cars and planes

And every time I slip the knot

I know I cause them pain

 

On the bus, be careful

At my school, be careful

Meet a boy, be careful

Vigyaz, vigyaz, vigyaz

 

 They’ve planned my future, super star

I have to be a great success

I hate to disappoint them but

Why can’t i just be me?

 

On the bus, be careful

At my school, be careful

Meet a boy, be careful

Vigyaz, vigyaz, vigyaz

 

 I haven’t any privacy

They even read my diary

They’re filled with such anxiety

I long for new society

 

My curfew is ridiculous

Their fears for me ridiculous

But ev’ry time I slip the knot

I know I cause them pain

 

 

GUILT

 

Can’t ask questions of my parents

It might hurt them, hurt my parents

 

I am nothing, said my mother

I lost three boys, said my father

I can’t lose you, said my father

 

All the suff’-ring of my mother

All the suff’ring of my father

I’m not worthy of my parents

 

NO SKIN BETWEEN US

 

I have always lived with them

Sleeping with my grandmother

There is no skin between us

I am they and they are me

 

Still the time has come to leave

Give the skin some room to breathe

How can I make my escape?

What’s the form and what’s the shape?

 

Marriage!   It’s the only way

Marriage!  That they can accept

Marriage!  And what would be best

Marriage!  To a Hungarian!

 

Let the wedding dance begin

Free the spirit deep within

Raise the hupa, kiss the groom

Let the sunlight fill the room

 

Now at last I cut the string

Here’s the bell, let freedom ring

Feel my heart as it takes wing

What new wonders might this bring

 

Children!  Wonder of wonders

Children!  Begat and beget

Children!  The past is the future

Children!  My path is now all set

 

Having children, big surprise 

Lifts the curtains from my eyes

Now I see behind the screen

Now I see what you have seen

 

See the love, the fear, the pride 

Like a roller coaster ride

We are parents each of us

There’s no skin between us

 

 

III.  Middle Age

 

MIRROR OF MEMORY

 

Through the mirror

Of memory

I can see

 

My father laying railroad tracks

He hears sounds from a boxcar.

His three little boys yelling Apu, Apu, we’re thirsty

That was the last time he saw them.

I don’t know how you survive that?  But he did.

 

(refrain)

 

My mother hoarding salt

To trade for potato peels

Building bombs and bullets

Her skin turning purple

But she was blond and blue eyed

So she survived

(refrain)

 

My grandmother made it back

One of the very few grandparents who did

When she got to her house it was completely empty

Except her husband’s robe

Hanging in the closet

 

Through the mirror

Of memory

I can see

 

My father’s moods, he’d disappear

Was it someone’s birthday?

 

His nightmares of a big black dog  **

I understand that now

 

Women laughing about the camps  

This is how they survived

 

Did we not ask questions to spare their feelings?

Or were we just young, just cared about ourselves? 

 

I know now that my childhood was about death,

But it was beautiful and magical too

 

I am now the age  

My parents died

Or close enough

 

And they knew my child

Their grandchild

And that is

Everything to me

 

 

THE RIVER

 

Songs you sang me, soft to sleep

Love you gave me, for me, to keep

It’s the river, flowing through

All of my life, and all my life it’s you

 

Love between us, special bond

My protection, magic, wan—nd

It’s the river, flowing through

All of my life, and all my life it’s you

 

KADDISH FOR GHOSTBROTHERS IN THE CLOUDS 

 

Rocking horse

Without a rider

Mother with

No one beside her

 

Wash their hair

Clean their faces

Let them go

To peaceful places

 

Rolling hoop

Without a turner

Teacher left

Without a learner

 

Wash their hair

Clean their faces

Let them go

To peaceful places

 

See them playing

In the lanes

By the lake

In the fields

See them playing

In the clouds

 

Laughing, dancing

In the lanes

By the lake

In the fields

Laughing, dancing

In the clouds

 

Now they sing

And dance for me

Music of

Tranquility

 

Always looking down

To guide me

They are always here

Beside me