I recently came across this simple graphic I put together and I took the opportunity to re-read this poem in its entirety. It hit me that I had neither heard nor read the complete poem by Emma Lazarus, entitled “The New Colossus,” before I had put this together (which was probably sometime last year) and, in fact, didn’t have much of a recollection of reading it back then.
So I then posted it on Twitter, which gave me the opportunity to read it a couple more times. Each time, I gained a bit more insight into the message Ms. Lazarus was attempting to convey, and each time I felt her message a bit more deeply.
It didn’t get that many likes, but it did generate enough feedback for me to pay really close attention to the poem, and I took the opportunity to read it several times. It finally brought me this image of my Bubbie, my paternal grandmother, along with my uncles Sam and Al and my aunt Sophie, arriving in New York from the Ukraine, where they had fled the pogroms. My grandfather, who I never knew, had made his way to Chicago and had worked to earn and save enough to send for all four of them to book “steerage” to the United States. My father was the first-born in the United States.
Reading her words and looking at this beautiful picture of the Statue of Liberty lifting “her lamp beside the golden door” moved me to tears as I thought of the struggles my ancestors must have endured, knowing as well that most of them never made it past their sixties, if they made it there. My father didn’t quite hit his 60th birthday before he died and, as I mentioned, I never knew my grandfather. I only saw my grandmother once that I can recall, as we lived in California and they lived in Chicago.
I also felt a deep sense of gratitude that my family was able to escape those pogroms relatively intact and they were able to resettle here in the U.S., where I was born a quarter century later. The more I read the poem, the deeper I feel that gratitude, though I’m disappointed to find things have been slipping backward in the struggle for justice and equality and in the level of welcome this country has traditionally shown (even if sometimes half-heartedly) to the ongoing flow of immigration.
I hope it moves some who read it as it moved me. This is the attitude I want my country to have toward immigration.
I made two shopping trips yesterday. Well … actually, it was one trip to two places – Trader Joe’s and Vons grocery store. During most of the pandemic I’ve been shopping every Wednesday and Sunday morning, when TJ’s designates the first hour they’re open (0800 – 0900) to us old farts, as well as immunocompromised individuals and pregnant women. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass not to be able to just run out and get something I forgot or just discovered I need for a recipe, but I’ve gotten used to it … and I do run out on occasion.
I bring this up because when I checked out at Vons I was given a handful of these game tickets for their newest gimmick to bring people in. I didn’t buy much there—Trader Joe’s gets the bulk of our business, but they don’t carry lots of things we do fancy—but it was enough for the cashier to hand me about eight of these “tokens.” So … despite my being a bit averse to these side shows, they were offering lots of “free” things, so I downloaded the app and scanned in the bar codes to see if I could win anything. When my wife, Linda, saw what I was doing, she gave me a bunch of tokens she had received when she stopped at Vons the other day.
One of the things I “won” (I’m still not entirely certain how I can claim it without spending more on shipping, handling, etc. than I care to) was a 5 x 8 notebook from Shutterfly. In order to claim it, one must go to Shutterfly’s website and enter the code, etc. Truth to tell, I had forgotten I was a member of Shutterfly, but LastPass (my password memory hole) remembered for me and I soon discovered I had a bunch of pictures uploaded there. When I say forgotten, the last time I uploaded a photo to their site was in late October of 2009, well over 11 years ago; that’s quite a span, IMO.
One of the photos I found I am sharing here, but the thrust of this post (the title might be a bit of a giveaway, but probably not until you’ve read what I’m about to write) has nothing to do specifically with the photo; it merely reminded me of something I’ve noticed over the years and gave me a bit of an “aha!” experience. Let me explain.
This picture was taken sometime around 1980 and, I believe, was at Gulliver’s Restaurant in Marina del Rey, California. My wife at the time was a waitress there. My father’s oldest brother, Sam, was in town from Chicago and we were getting together for the first time in quite a long while.
A little family background from my father’s side: My father is the fourth of five children; the first born in the United States, and the third boy of four. My Aunt Sophie, who was in Chicago, her home, when this happened, was the only girl and the oldest as well. She, Sam, and Al (not pictured here) were all born in the Ukraine. My grandfather who, by the way, I have no recollection of, had come to the U.S. and it took him eight years to save up enough money to send for my bubbie, my aunt, and my two uncles to book passage to the states. They settled in Chicago, where my father was born a bit later.
Although I never heard much detail, I do believe they were escaping the pogroms taking place in Russia targeting Jews and they were lucky to get out intact. My zayde, his name was Max Wladofsky, came here (if my info is correct and I remember it correctly) around 1915, my bubbie and my aunt and uncles came around 1923, and my father was born in 1924.
So, as I’m looking at this picture I’m reminded of how many members of my family are named after English or Anglo-Saxon royalty. My father’s name was Edward, my name is Richard, and my brother’s name is Stephen. My mother’s name was Annette and, although I can find no Annette in a list of English monarchs, there is an Anne. It goes further. Note my one cousin in this photo was named Harold and his father, my uncle, was named Albert (no kings with that name, but there’s a famous Prince Consort named Albert – Prince Albert “in a can”) who was married to Queen Victoria. Harold’s older brother is named William.
Unfortunately, both of my parents are long gone and I can’t ask them about this somewhat strange number of people named after British royalty, but I can speculate it had something to do with a desire to not be discriminated against and to “blend” in to the new country they now called home. Having been born shortly after the end of WWII, I’m well aware of what I refer to as Jewish angst, the feeling that one is waiting for another shoe to drop, another insult or slight based on being Jewish, or that something bad might happen at any moment.
It’s worthwhile to note the two oldest siblings of my father were named Sophie and Samuel (more something like Schusa and Schmuel in Yiddish, which my paternal grandparents spoke fluently, as did my father.) Why the middle child was named Albert, though, I can’t figure; maybe it was in anticipation of their new home, despite the length of time it took to realize that dream. After that, it was Edward and Arthur.
At any rate, I’ve likely spent far too much time blathering on about my family but, hey, this is my blog and I’m allowed to sink or swim … or totally make a fool of myself. I started this blog in part as a way to record my thoughts, regardless of how valuable they might be or whether or not they resonate with anyone else. My interests tend toward the eclectic and I sometimes write as a sort of stream-of-consciousness activity to sort out my thoughts on a given subject. I’ve thought about this subject before; I’ve just never written about it, so here ’tis.
Since my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in 2010, I have spent quite a bit of energy on developing work as a social media marketer for small business, a business manager for an AI software development firm, and as an editor/proofreader for a number of business books and a couple of novels, as well as a two-year return engagement at Rocketdyne from 2015 to 2017.
I have decided to stop actively pursuing business in these fields and am now positioning myself to be a writer. I have done quite a bit of writing over the years, but I’ve never really attempted to make any money at it; at least not specifically. I’m starting out with a couple of memoirs and, currently, I’m studying the craft, creating a detailed outline and timeline, and honing my skills as a storyteller. Pretty sure I’ll be writing some fiction as well.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.