I am starting my blog with an except from a story that Jay's grandmother, Dorothy Rosenblum, wrote about her family coming to America. I wish you could hear it in her very memorable Southern drawl. She was a very warm woman who wrote using lots of exclamation points which I love!
"It was no wonder that while we were forced to love in Minsk, my father decided to go to America to build a better life for us there. He saw no future for Jews in Russia. Although it would mean a hard journey and a long separation, even his father urged and encouraged him to go.
To get out of Russia was no small feat, even then. His experience and trials were many. All the ports of embarkation to cross the Atlantic were closed because of the war. After a long and arduous trip through Siberia, China and Japan, my father finally boarded a ship for America in Kobe, Japan on December 3, 1916. He arrived in San Francisco on January 1, 1917,"
And then in 1921, Dorothy continues....
"My father, aunt, uncle and cousins, Sylvia and Rebecca, met us at the Terminal Station on Spring Street, where the Richard Russell Federal building is now. The train pulled up to the platform and there was my father, just like his picture! I went right into his outstretched arms and hugged and kissed him - and I did so forever after."
-Written by Dorothy Rosenblum, 1994
It has been the end of the world in many ways as I know it and I want to feel fine.
It was Saturday late afternoon last weekend and I was at Starbucks because I needed some caffeine to feel fine. It was the day of the marches and as I looked down at my phone to check Instagram and Facebook while waiting for my drink, I was relieved to see those who I knew had marched safely. As I took a thankful breath, I was not expecting to the hear the escalating arguing I did right next to me and as an Asian woman quietly left, I was even more surprised to hear yelled at her “you need to learn our customs.”
I am not one to always speak up but it felt too eerie to be quiet. I decided it was time to march in my own way since I had not that morning so I followed the woman who was leaving and said I was sorry for what happened. And I then marched back in and said calmly to the woman who yelled at her, that what she said to the woman was not necessary or nice. I am not saying this to brag because like many of us, not speaking up seems like less and less of an option.
I was prepared to walk away if she got angry at me but it actually turned into into a civil conversation. As a group of young adults took over, she explained and defended herself and then said turning to me and then to them “you are right, I should not have said that and I am sorry.” And as she walked out to to leave, she said crying “but you don’t know my heart. You think you do but you don’t.”
I did not think I could feel empathy for a woman who said something that I thought was so offensive but I did. I understand how it feels when people abruptly make decisions about your heart.
I remember playing the game Jenga with my kids when they were younger. It was one of the very few games I thought was fun. You build a standing structure with rectangular red, yellow and blue bricks and then very carefully choose and remove one brick on your turn. If on your turn, you remove a brick that causes the entire structure to collapse, you lose the game. The best strategy is to remove bricks that are not needed to hold the structure in place but you never know which brick will cause the rumble.
That’s great it starts with an earthquake
It’s six o’clock TV hour and every few minutes a breaking CNN news alert comes on with a new executive order. Every one feels like another brick being pulled from our already divided country and I feel on edge. It seems the patriotic and symbiotic hope our country was founded is on shakier ground than ever.
2016 was a year of aftershocks for me after Jay died, and finally one day I could clearly see that all of the bricks had fallen to the ground in my life and I knew what needed to be done. My work in progress is to rebuild myself and a strong family of three, (plus our two dogs of course). It seems the work ahead for those who are afraid for our country will be simiiar as we step on bricks being pulled out from under us, and do our best to use them not to continue to build a wall of division in our country but to rebuild our faith in humanity.
I could choose to call the woman in Starbucks racist but I think the path of judgement is too worn in our country so I will use it as an opportunity to believe that we can stick around for hard conversations and find ways to come together. We are a country of diverse beliefs and experiences and if I can remember that, it gives me a little more room in my world for others.
I am going believe that the woman in Starbucks has a good heart and that most of us do because if it's the end of the world as I know it, I have to find a way to feel fine. It's been my only choice.
I will end with these words of Jay's grandmother:
"There are many people in my life that I have enjoyed and loved. I by no means like everyone I met, but I am thankful I never had the need to "hate" and for the abundance of people in my life whom I was privileged to have loved as family and friends."
REM It's The End Of The World (which is quoted in this blog)