NARRATOR: When a person does something wrong, they often lean on their religious traditions to help them atone.
But today you’ll hear from one family… who came up with their own way to repent…
Bernie Feldstein (BF): So we had in our family an amnesty day.
Vickie Feldstein (VF): I don’t think I needed amnesty day.
BF: No, but your brother sure did. So you can say anything and it would be no retribution of any kind. No condemnation or discussion.
NARRATOR: That’s Vickie Feldstein with her dad, Bernie…
….she grew up in the late 1960s, with her brother Michael…who also came to StoryCorps with their dad… to reflect on how they dealt with forgiveness as a family…
BF: Was there anything that was so egregious that you really wouldn’t even bring that up?
Michael Feldstein (MF): One of the ones that I don’t think I ever told you was there were crab apples that were pretty big in our backyard. And so we would take them and throw them as far as we could into the neighbor’s backyard. They had this glass porch and I hit one of these windows perfectly and all 20 windows fell to the ground and smashed. And we just ran.
BF: Wait a minute. This is a new one. I’m not sure that there’s a, uh, statute of limitations on this?
MF: Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Amnesty day ended when I was 15.
And then the time I was probably about 8 or 9; we used to keep matches in the bathroom. And so, I thought it was kinda cool lighting toilet paper on fire in the toilet and I had a fire going. It was up like a foot, foot and a half. It was going pretty good and I flushed it, no problem. And I looked and the toilet seat was burned, so I remember running downstairs and getting the watercolors and then trying to watercolor paint the toilet seat.
BF: You know, when I was a little bit older than that, I had some firecrackers. I lived in an apartment in the Bronx with my folks. And I got scared and I dropped it and it dropped on the dining room table and it burned a hole in it. And I painted it to match and it didn’t match well, so I did exactly the same thing.
Three days later, my father looks at me and he goes, ”Okay, what is it?” You haven’t been eating right. You don’t look right. You can’t smile. Something’s up.” So I showed it to him. He said, ”Do you think the world’s going to come to an end because there’s a hole in a kitchen table? What’s the matter with you?”
Once I let it out, it was like a great burden was lifted. I think this is the genesis, really, of amnesty day. I remembered what it was like to carry around guilt for having done something wrong and be hiding it. But I just wanted you to feel that you could share anything with me and that you’d find support for life.