This Fourth of July, I’m thinking about freedom, generosity, and gratitude.
My Paternal Grandparents
I’m grateful to my paternal grandfather, who left Russia in 1914 and worked as a shoemaker in America, earning enough money by 1921 to send for my grandmother and their two sons. I’m especially grateful to this grandmother. I wish I knew how she managed to survive the Russian Revolution as a single mother.
My Maternal Grandparents
I’m grateful to my maternal grandfather for eluding the recruitment officers and shipping to America, and to my maternal great-grandparents for uprooting themselves and their children and making their way here.
One of those children became my grandmother. She was about nine when she arrived and started kindergarten, quickly acquiring language and catching up to her age cohort. But her family’s finances required she go to work after eighth grade.
Both my parents were born in the US, and came of age during The Great Depression. Nevertheless, they received stellar educations in New York City public schools and colleges. In 1943, as soon as my father turned eighteen, he interrupted his college education to enlist in the US Army. He served as an infantryman in Europe, was wounded, survived.
I am the beneficiary of American public policy that welcomed my immigrant forbearers and educated their children. My parents, in turn, joined the work force, paid taxes, volunteered in their communities, and taught me and my brothers to give back.
Freedom & Generosity
I continue to enjoy the very freedom and public generosity that our government is now systematically denying people very much like my grandparents: poor, non-English speaking, courageous people willing to risk everything for a chance of a better life for their children in America.
I grieve for the children separated from their parents at our border, and for their parents, who have risked everything in their pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I long for a nation rededicated to the freedom and generosity extended to my immigrant grandparents, my parents, and me.