Determination and restarts

Grandma Papaila (left) with her cousin circa 1910

My people are a hearty stock of people.  We have been known to work hard, in spite of set backs, and seemingly unfavorable odds.  Its funny but today i have had my grandparents on my mind.  I never met my grandfathers – they were in heaven long before i was born.  But i grew up with the opportunity to love and be loved by my grandmothers.  They all made difficult decisions to leave the familiarity of family, village, culture, language for the seemingly limitless opportunity America offered.

They were young, perhaps mid teenagers when they packed their steamer trunks, tucked the small stash of funds in a secure place and boarded a boat for the land of promise.  Imagine with me the sights and sounds of hundreds of people with everything they own tucked in a trunk.  Somewhere in the quiet depths of their souls there must have been a dance of emotions and fear.  Of challenge and hope.

And as the boat pulled in to New York City’s harbor there must have been a clatter of people anxious for those first steps on new soil.  Was there someone familiar there?  Do they speak my language?  Where will i go?  And will i be able to find my way in this brave new world?  I imagine these were at least a small amount of the thoughts that bubbled to the surface that day before the turn of the last century.

My grandparents never really spoke of their lives in the old village that straddled Poland and Russia.  And quickly they began their immersion in learning English, finding work, fitting in, making a living, finding love, marriage and raising children.  But the one thing that always shined through the broken English conversations they had with a small child that was me… they were determined to succeed, to thrive, and to be productive citizens of this amazing nation.  And they succeeded with tenacity, and strong determination.

As a child I didnt think much about how the act of immigrating to a foreign country was a completely overwhelming endeavor… it required a complete rebuilding of life as it was known – setting up a network of new friends, new community, new everything.

Since the great economic crash of 2009-2010 i think about them often. The memory of their tenacity and determination to make a good life is a lesson to take to heart.  Their example of survival, and building a new life in the USA is a powerful reminder that I can do this too.  After all, I am from that hearty stock too.  That makes me smile.