The author recalls a childhood summer in the New Jersey countryside in 1939 before World War II:

“Toward evening, after we had showered and changed, we could hear grown-up voices rising and falling in contention. Whenever any of us would come near, they’d stop talking and pretend they hadn’t been arguing, but we could feel the tension even when we hadn’t heard any words. There was something else going on, and it had to do with the news they were hearing from the radio. All the Grinberg guests would gather in the evening around the set, a big wooden box sitting on an embroidered cloth covering a small table in the living room. One of the adults would fiddle with the radio dials, trying through the hiss and crackle to get a clear signal and hear the latest bulletins. The others would crowd the little table, their faces intent, for once seeming oblivious that children were also in the room. We couldn’t make out much, but the stern expressions told us a lot and seemed to have some connection with the words ‘Hitler’ and ‘war’ that kept recurring from both the radio announcements and adult conversation.”