Just Me

Just Me
Look,I'm just sayin'

Friday, February 10, 2017

generations

 I was doing some work on the family tree yesterday. I didn't make any new discovery but revisited a past one. My Grandmother Bennett arrived at Ellis Island in 1899 when she was fifteen years old. That was 118 years ago. My Grandson just turned 15. I just got to thinking how much has changed over that time frame. Grandmother Bennett never drove a car in her life, Mark has a learners permit. When " nana " as I called her arrived she had exactly sixteen dollars on her. That's a lot of money though, about $ 457.67 today. So, judging by that I would say she was rather well off. I'm certain there were many years in her life after that when she had no such funds. America didn't turn out to be the land of milk and honey for her.
 Yes a lot has changed over those years. It is difficult to realize just how much. In 1899 automobiles were a curiosity. Truly resembling a horseless carriage they were something only the very wealthy would have had. A real luxury item that today is considered a necessity. Why it is second in cost only to our homes. Nana arrived by steamship after a fourteen day passage. It was crowded and really not very pleasant at all. Her only relief was when she went " on deck " to escape the foul air and crowds. She told me her first English words were, " ice cold milk and donuts " that she learned listening to a man hawking them. It is what she ate the most on her way over. She had to pass through Ellis Island and that wasn't a very pleasant experience either. You did have to undergo physical and mental examinations. It wasn't all " politically correct " like it is now days. You could just as easily be denied entry for just about any reason at all. Fortunately Grandmother was from a well to do family, a respectable bunch, and didn't have any health issues. Her Uncle was there to met here and " helped " her through the process.
 I only knew her as my grandmother. When I was small I didn't understand that she came from Sweden, another country. She looked like everyone else, she sounded like everyone else and was this little grey haired lady. I'd say I can remember her from about the age of five so that would have made her about 73. She had ten children ! She lived in a three bedroom home. She never received assistance of any kind from the government. Yes, she did get social security the last few years of her life. She kept a tiny Swedish flag in a cup on the shelf. That was the only concession I ever saw to her heritage. When I was older I did ask her questions about her home in Sweden but she seldom spoke of it. She certainly didn't proclaim that she was a Swedish-American. Her three sons all fought in WW2. All three did return home to her.
 The thing is, she was there for WW1,WW2, Korea and the Vietnam war. She lived through them all. She lived through the great depression. Think of all the historical events she witnessed. The Hindenburg disaster. Charles Lindberg flying across the Atlantic and Amelia disappearing. She saw the birth of radio and television. She saw it all. She passed in 1973 which doesn't seem that long ago to me. I was two years out of high school by then and half way through my first enlistment in the Navy. I have to say I don't think she has missed all that much. Hasn't been any wars since then but a lot of folks dying anyway for no clear cut cause. Yeah she never got to see a flat screen television or a real computer but so what. I'm glad she didn't see the twin towers tumble down or those folks blown up at the Boston marathon. I can remember her sadness that someone shot Kennedy. I can't imagine how she would feel if she could see the way humanity acts today.
 It is just hard to imagine that she arrived 118 years ago when I knew and loved her. One hundred and eighteen sure sounds like a lot of time but really it isn't. She passed 44 years ago so why does that feel like a lifetime to me ? It does seem like a long time ago and in a different world. I guess you don't really see things until you pass them. If we could look ahead, I mean really look ahead, things wouldn't be the same as they were. At least I hope that would be the case. There has been a lot of changes that much is certain. My grandson was born in 2001, a new century. I was born in the last century and Grandma the one before that. In the bigger picture much has remained the same, generation following generation. And so life goes on.