Noe Valley Voice February 2004

In Remembrance of Anne Sachs

A Noe Valley Mom

By Maria Cuevas Chin

I've been grieving the loss of a dear friend. Longtime Noe Valley resident Anne Sachs passed away suddenly on Monday, Dec. 8, 2003. Anne was a special person, younger than I. She was 46 years old.

She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had undergone a mastectomy, chemo, bald head, the works. The shocking thing is that she was getting better. Her hair had grown back in; she had gained weight and was looking good. The last time I saw her we went for a hike on Bernal Hill, where she reminisced about how she used to put her babies into a stroller and walk with a mothers' group on the road that wound around the hill.

Anne was so upbeat, outgoing, energetic, and intelligent. She was a devoted mother, a writer and musician, a keen political observer, and a loyal friend. She knew hundreds of people, remembered their names and details of their lives. The joke was that, wherever in the world Anne went, she would always manage to run into someone she knew. She taught English as a Second Language at USF for many years and deeply regretted that her illness kept her from fulfilling all her duties towards her students.

Anne lived on 27th Street in Noe Valley for 16 years. She traveled extensively and used to live in New York City, so she and I had that in common. We met at the school bus stop at 30th and Noe and watched each other's kids grow up from kindergarten onwards in a group that became known as the "Bus Stop Moms." We were planning on spending Christmas together.

I couldn't sleep well the first night after finding out she had died. I woke up and thought about our last meeting, and it suddenly occurred to me that she might have known but not told anyone. Maybe she just wanted to enjoy the last of her life without the "shadow of doom" hanging over her relationships with family and friends. Maybe she was, in her own way, going around and saying goodbye to people and places she loved. Or maybe not...I don't really know. I just wish we had spent more time together.

I attended her memorial at the Noe Valley Ministry on Sunday, Jan. 18. So many people were packed into the sanctuary that more chairs had to be brought up to seat people all the way back to the stairwell. Anne's daughters, Miranda and Lena, graciously greeted visitors and gracefully spoke of their mother's life and the love they shared. Many family members and friends related humorous and poignant memories of Anne, and we all came away with a greater sense of who she was, and an even greater sense of loss.

Anne's passing has taught me--really taught me--to appreciate and love each day, each person, each morsel of chocolate, each spoonful of Max's chicken gumbo soup, and to let go of being angry at Muni, stressing over getting to work on time, and all the little and large irritations in life.

Goodbye, Anne. You will be missed by many.

A Loyal Friend

By Kathy Rosenberg-Wohl I remember the first night I met Anne Sachs, over a decade ago, when Flora Kupferman brought her into our book group. They had become close at their daughters' preschool. Side by side they would sit by the sandbox, as talk of children turned, as it so often did with Anne, to talk of good meaty books.

On more cold San Francisco evenings than I can count, we would gather in the warmth of each other's homes to bask in talk about books. Anne was probably the most well-read of us all and certainly the most passionate about literature. She would seize on characters and dissect plots with an intensity and delight that filled the room like a spicy perfume.

Soon the book group decided to share desserts and sip tea while we talked, two delicious things--food and conversation--joined together. It was then that Anne began baking her lemon tart for us. And what a tart it was, a perfectly balanced blend of sweetness and tangyness, a golden-yellow orb of sunshine blanketed with the sweet dark blueberries that Anne would arrange in an exquisite pattern. This tart was as luscious as it was beautiful--a sweet symbol of Anne's generosity and love.

I would often try to resist taking a second slice but rarely could. And I remember many a night when we would eat this tart as our talk turned quickly from books to most beloved daughters, and husbands and parents, to the hopes and difficulties of our lives, the taste of the tart becoming the rich taste of friendship itself. We would leave nourished in so many ways, the fresh flavor of lemon still on our tongues.

I'd like to share one small book group incident that I think illustrates Anne's steadfast loyalty. Anne was concerned about the kindergarten my daughter attended. It was, shall we say, very alternative. Anne expressed her concerns to me privately and she had very good reasons, well thought out. My own doubts were raised. Then one night a new woman came to our group. She was bright and well-read, but when she learned where my daughter was going to school, she began to criticize the school energetically. But Anne was my friend, and loyalty was more important to her than her own strongly held opinions. She quickly leapt to my defense, giving stirring arguments as to why the school was just fine, great in fact, thank you very much. Love came first with Anne and loyalty to her friends, and to her family. It was this affection and fierce love that encircled all of us with her extraordinary strength and passion.

For those who love books and Anne, we mourn the terrible gap in our lives, the middle and ending of a book torn too soon from the binding, now lost to us.

But the memory of Anne is not lost, not her intelligence, her intensity, her kindness and her deep resonant laugh, her love of books, her gift of friendship.

Some people prefer chocolate cake, and some oatmeal cookies, but for me, give me Anne's lemon tart, her own work so like her. The custard the color of sunshine, the crust a sturdy arm encircling, cradling, and a flavor so pure and fresh it is a taste of life itself.

I'll miss you, Anne.

Slow Movement

Lena and I play volleyball

On the tattered lawn

While Miranda waits inside for our food delivery.

Lena covers the yard

Sending the ball high in the air

For me to return.

The ball sails up, down,

Behind me, and into my face

As we volley it back and forth.

Later, Miranda takes out her violin

And I sit at the piano

Doubling the Vivaldi piece she needs to learn.

She is playing the slow second movement,

And I tell her

The secret to playing slow movements

Is to create a sound

Which is calm and unhurried;

Never tense.

Finally, we three--

Mother and two daughters--

Stroll out for ice cream

Despite the strong wind

Which slaps at our jackets and sweatshirts.

I am between them

Arms outstretched

Encircling them in my arms.

--Anne Sachs

Those who wish to may make a donation in Anne Sachs' name to the Ida and Joseph Friend Cancer Resource Center, 1600 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94143-1725; phone: 415-885-3693.