Performed by Val Cole
In 1941, Sadie Kleinberg’s ten-year-old niece, Rhoda was quarantined in the children’s polio ward at St. Giles Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. Rhoda was immobilized and bedridden. Visiting hours were restricted to two days a week for one hour. Aunt Sadie took it upon herself to be Rhoda’s cheerleader, advisor, comfort giver and entertainer by writing her niece daily letters. Each letter included at least one poem Sadie composed just for Rhoda. These 101 letters, written from November 1941 to March 1942, offer light, love, and coping lessons during a dark and frightening time.
Through these letters, my Aunt Sadie taught my mother how to be a kind and good person despite adversity. Sadie brought the outside world to that hospital room in small but significant ways. At a time when there were no cell phones or computers, a letter every day was warm and meaningful. I know each one brought my mother great comfort and connection.
May these beautiful poems and letters, written to an isolated ten-year old girl eighty years ago, bring solace to those who are going through hard, isolating times today.