Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Bumpy flight this afternoon.  I flew in ahead of a storm brewing in the northeast but the pregame show was making the plane dance.  A young woman to my left was having conniptions which, alternatively, had the effect of ratcheting up and reducing any anxiety I might have felt--the reduction occurring because by comparison I was feeling swell.   When the plane landed she immediately got on the portable phone and told her whoever that this was the worst flight EVER.  She must not have flown much and I would not want to be flying with her as a neighbor on a regular basis. I remember once being on a small plane flying from Hilton Head to Atlanta.  We got caught in a thunderstorm and boy did we ever do the mambo up in the air for a while.  My young neighbor would have really been a treat on that flight.

To whatever extent bumps on a plane make you think about an out of control quick demise, you might or at least I have wondered who I have not said what to and wish I had.  Then, of course, the plane lands and the concern becomes less to get the message out and more to catch the Blue Line in order to make the 4:50 commuter train. It can be easy to take life and time as a given when it is not in apparent jeopardy.

On the subject of demise and out of control circumstances that might cause it, my mother told me a family story this weekend that I had never heard before.  I knew the background, but not a key component.

The background I knew is this.  My maternal grandmother came to this country on a visit with her father in the early 20th century.  My great grandfather had a successful business in Europe and my grandmother was, comparatively, privileged.  When my grandmother returned to Europe she made up her mind that she would come to the United States when she was 18.  My great grandfather did not want his daughter to travel alone to America, but my grandmother was persistent and came over.  There she met my grandfather and married, eventually having five children.  She was certainly no longer wealthy and matters abruptly became much worse when in June 1929 my grandfather perished in a work related accident.  At that point the eldest of the clan was 11 and my mother was 4.

I knew all of this.  But here is what I did not know.  My grandmother wrote to her father in Europe and asked for some help.  Her father may well have provided some financial support--my mother is not sure. However, as an alternative, what my great grandfather suggested was that my grandmother move back to Europe with her children and live with her parents.

This must have been a tempting offer.  My grandmother has no money in what must be still a relatively unfamiliar country. Her husband is dead.  Still, my grandmother did not accept her father's offer.  She told him that she wanted her children to enjoy living in America. To move the brood back to Europe would deprive her children of that life.  What she did not know is that to have moved the family back to Europe would have deprived her children of any life.

After the mid 1930s my grandmother never heard from her parents or her brothers and sister again.  She did not hear from them because they were rounded up and murdered by the Nazis.  My grandmother had a picture of her family on a bureau that you could see as soon as you went into her apartment.  I have a vague recollection of asking when I was a little kid, where they were.  Can't remember how the adults responded then, but now I know what happened to the people in that picture.  It is, despite how much I might read about that time, still inconceivable

In another sense of the word, if my grandmother had gone to Europe this life of mine would have been, literally, inconceivable.  My mother would likely have been killed sometime in the late 30s or 40s.

Makes you kind of enjoy a bumpy plane flight.

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