What periods of discovery have you had?
We Begin With “How It Is”
First for us in life comes family. From there our world expands. There were my parents and my brother and then my mother’s two sisters. They lived together and would have been called maiden aunts. There was so much more.
Families can be secretive for reasons that are never clear. It was decades later that I found who one of my aunts was. My maternal grandfather was a milkman in the silk stocking district of Manhattan. That was in the early 1900s. The family lived in Hell’s Kitchen. It was said to be the home of the Irish Mob but census records show a highly diverse population. But in all regards it was a tumultuous immigrant community.
Our Families Unfold
As my grandfather made his rounds both in Hell’s Kitchen and in the upper East Side of Manhattan he watched for abandoned children. He saw to it that they were taken somewhere safe. I had always wondered why my aunt Agnes loved to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It turned out that Agnes had found refuge in my grandparents’ home and she was not a blood relative. She was joyous and Irish through and through.
Agnes and her sister Ruth saw to it that my brother and myself saw New York. Often you can live in a city and never see it. But my brother and I were their children as well and we toured New York. The most special day was New Years Eve. My first such fest was when I was five. It became a tradition to go to Radio City Music hall for the movie and the show. Then we went out to Times Square. That was long ago and far away and we loved it. And after the ball fell we went to arcades and played games until the wee hours. Yes, I was a night person and delighted in the festivities.
The World Opened
And then when I was ten my father took us to Europe. It was just five years after the end of World War II. London was a pile of rubble still. Some interesting things were left standing but the sight of war and its consequences came home to me. Then we crossed the channel and met the French. To this day I do not understand why the British and French continue to have reservations about each other. Yes, they competed in the past but I found both peoples different but lovely in their own right. At the time the French seemed a little crusty. But as I visited them over the coming decades I saw them relax. Later I understood.
How Curious Is Memory
Something unexpected happened. Recently I read a novel about the experiences of three women during the time of the Nazi occupation of France. And then I remembered a face of a woman in a shop outside of Paris when I was ten. It haunted me. She seemed to be in a bad mood and suddenly stopped and stared off into space with a look of terror on her face. I was only ten and the Nazi occupation had ended just five years before. As a ten year old I could not understand. Now I could believe she was being hit by terrible recollections. Depth in my life was unfolding.
From France we went by train to Switzerland. To Americans there were odd shortages. We ate in the dining car on the train and as a ten year old I would have been drinking soda or water except the train had neither. So I had the choice of wine or beer. I tried the beer. It was an interesting trip to Switzerland for me.
Building a View of Life
What’s the point? Our country appears to be on the cusp of major changes. In those changes we will see and discover much about our country and ourselves. In it we will see that our lives are journey’s of discovery. It doesn’t matter how far ranging the discovery is, it is there if we will attend to it. And it may be in the books we read, the friends we make or world events. It is precious and not to be missed. And we each attend to our personal reality.
What have been your turning points?