I needed to turn off the TV. I had had enough. Enough is enough. I don’t need to subject myself to such vitriol, such hate. No more. I sat and stewed. What was I going to do with the emotions that I was feeling? How was I going to improve the sudden funk in which I found myself? I was angry, hurt, disgusted. He was condemning immigrants. Worse than that, he was perpetuating the misconception that immigrants are worthless, their motherlands are worthless, as if we are all defined in financial terms.
I started to think about my family and where they came from. I had been told that my father’s grandparents came from Hungary. His grandmother had written a book about the Bible and it sat on my shelf. It was small, tattered, and had that old musty book smell with undertones of cigarette smoke it had absorbed from living at her son’s home, my grandfather, my father’s father, for 40 years. I tried to read it once many years ago, but in all honesty, it went right over my head. It was well-written and wordy, but I lost interest rather quickly much in the same way I lose interest watching black and white movies. The dialogue in old black and white movies is unrealistic. The conversations are monotone, contrived, and lengthy. People don’t talk like that in real life. We mutter and sputter, pause and lose words. We can be sloppy with our speech. Lazy. But the words in her book were perfect. The words in her book were all very carefully chosen, intelligent, and lovely, likely because English was her second language, and she was trying harder to make it just right.
I got up from my chair and hunted that book again. I read the flaps of the jacket that told about the book and about my great grandmother. Apparently, she was a physical therapist. I never knew that. It never spoke of her birthplace. That’s when I got on Ancestry.com.
For the next several hours, with my children happily distracted with iPads in hand watching YouTube videos, I dug around on the website. Unfortunately, I can not seem to find anything about my great grandmother, the author from Hungary, but I was able to go back at least 5 generations on my mother’s side. I learned that my family is from England, Germany, Hungary, and France. My family served in World War I, II, Vietnam, and Korea. They were mechanics, farmers, factory workers, electricians, and my great great grandfather from Germany was a musician and made a living tuning pianos in Manhattan. I learned that my great grandmother, the piano tuner’s daughter, had a sister I never knew about, Dorothy. The last piece of information I have on her is that she is 21 on a ship with her mother sailing from Cuba to New York. I can’t seem to find out what happened to her after that.
I am eager to get back on the site and find out more about my family and their stories. I am eager to learn about where I come from, because we all come from somewhere. We have ALL escaped a shithole. One of the interesting things I noticed is that most of the time, my family was helping other people escape, too. In so many of the census roles that I read, my family had others living in their homes with them. Aunts, uncles, cousins, parents from their motherlands. In other cases, their were boarders and tenants from places far and wide. You see, when one climbs out of the shithole, the right thing to do is turn around, reach down, and pull someone else out. You don’t leave them there to suffer and die. You don’t leave another person behind, not when you know you can help. Not when you know you have enough and there is more than enough to go around.
I feel inspired by these new Americans from so long ago. They found their way. They crawled out. They helped others do the same. I have a new found love for a country that has given my family such opportunity. How could I take that away from someone else? Because they aren’t the “right” skin color? Because they are from the “wrong” place? It is for the farmer and the piano tuner and the author that I say enough is enough. No more. No more hate. I won’t let the hate speech that I hear make me hate. I’m angry, but I’m channeling it. I’m starting with the beginning, at my roots. Funny thing is, if any of you garden, you know that when roots take hold in a pile of shit, they make the most fruitful plants….