Friday, April 11, 2008

Grant me an immigrant

Waves of memory wash over me
leaving a faint yet visible impression upon my skin
dancing upon the glimmering rocks of shale.

Someone grant me an immigrant who I can see-one that has his or her look etched into my face and within my mind's eye. One that I can touch with my hand and embrace with my spirit.
Dancing in between that good old generational gap.

The bloodlines that celebrate with the sea's gurgling of delight.
Harbor seals resting upon the rocks
basking in the sun.

My mom's parents came from the outer banks of Newfoundland. They worked hard to make their living. They fought the elements working amongst the slimy cod fish that they farmed. The environment that they worked in was summed up well when I watched the movie, The Shipping News. In it, there were scenes of gale-forced winds and fog and very rough waters.
The weather dominated their lives both physically and emotionally. In the film, there were scenes with bar brawls and deep emotional angst.
My grandparents decided to leave that kind of environment and move to Boston to create a better opportunity for themselves.
One that would give them a chance to be employed in industry and to make more money.

Yet, on my dad's relatives stayed pretty close to where they lived and worked in the small town of Boothbay Harbor,Maine.
Sitting in the living room rocking chair of Aunt Ella. In her simple white house next to the A&F store once run by her family. We made the visit several times a summer to Aunt Ella. She spoke of her childhood in the state of Maine. When I made the visits to Aunt Ella and to other distant relatives on my dad's side of the family, I found it hard to connect to them. I heard stories of people whom I had never met. Yet, they were somehow loosely embedded into my family fabric. And it was fascinating to see how they lived back then.
Along the tables in her living room, there were pictures of her family that she would share with us. She served us tea and some biscuits as she talked during our visit. Aunt Ella was fond of my dad and it was good to see how he interacted with her with a smile and attentive ear. As Dad listened to the stories and made several comments of several boyhood friends that he used to play with near Taylor Pond, I saw the furrows in his brow rise leaving behind rivulets briefly. Showing a brief path of journeys taken. My dad also shared times that he would play in the yards with other friends of his.

Every summer, Aunt Marion, my dad's sister, visited from Florida and stayed in a cabin with her dog, Ringo. He was always jumping up and down in a lively way. She always made sure that she had a dog biscuit to give to her boy, Ringo, and engaged him in a little conversation. Aunt Marion wore glasses that she perched on top of her head of white hair. During one of our visits at Boothbay Harbor, she was on a picnic bench eating a hot dog and down swooped a sea gull to grab the hot dog she was eating. She said, "my nerve, how could he do that, I was eating my hot dog. "

Another of my dad's relatives was Aunt Cora who ran a bed and breakfast house on top of McCown Hill in town. Her house was a multi storied green house that had shingles that looked like gingerbread icing. It was on the highest point in town; so, it was always easy to pick out her house as we traveled through the town. We never stayed overnight in her establishment, but her relations to the townsfolk entered into our conversations as well.

Another relative was Cousin Jimmy Savory who we would see over at the Fisherman's wharf hotel in his white uniform as he valet parked the cars. When he saw us, he said, "How are you doing today. Hope that you enjoy your visit to Boothbay, you hear."

When my parents met sixty years ago on the campus of Bates College in Maine, they decided that they wanted to create better opportunities for their family. So we immigrated from city to city as dad worked as a traveling auditor for General Electric.

When these visits occurred, I was a teen who was slowly maturing and emerging into the world with my interactions.
One thing that I could identify with them is the universal theme of acceptance and the uncertainty of what would lay ahead of their journey. The same thing pertained to me when I immigrated from the private school world and into the public school world. It was a world that would not promise me anything, but it would provide me with opportunities on a much broader scale.

When I first left the Henry Viscardi School in Albertson, it felt good to leave behind the daily association with handicapped youngsters and adults who struggled everyday in their handicaps and infirmities.
This transition into that world produced for me many trials and tests. Probably much like the ancestors of my mom and my dad. Those who had to rely on the fruit of their labors on the land. In order to get ahead and make progress along the way.

I appreciate my ancestry since both sides of my family came from the sea and lived amongst it. They appreciated its depth and mystery. And as I gaze into the waters of the ocean, I am drawn to those same feelings as well.

Off to read and learn of China in the Joy Luck Club for our annual 2008 campaign of the Big Read.

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