Messages from a Jewish Grandmother to her Granddaughter
Happy Friday Bunchkie.
The world seemed to move slower when I was your age.
While this may or may not be true; it is certainly my perception. The days seemed longer…the summers forever. The neighborhoods safer. We walked to school unattended and played safely outside until we were called home for dinner.
Now this does not mean to say the world was actually safer. We had our share of major world events, kidnappers, and pedophiles. We just were not bombarded immediately with these events as there was no internet. The nightly news at 6pm was when you might find out what had happened that day, or more likely the day before.
I am a baby boomer; a generation born after World War II. Until the millennials we were the largest generation in United States history, and we made many mistakes, just as all generations have and will continue to. Our impact on the environment will define the rest of our lives, and likely that of yours and your childrens. Be thankful for the likes of Greta Thurnberg, and follow her lead to make the world inhabitable environmentally. It is never too early to grasp knowledge and change the world. Support and elect officials who make our environment a priority.
Three events stand out in my mind that created fear for me.
Skipping home on November 23rd, 1963 I was greeted by a very somber Christine. She was a beautiful woman who cared for me from a young age, and I loved her as much as anyone. She had tears in her brown eyes and grabbed me and held me to her large bosom sobbing while telling me President Kennedy had been shot…assasinated…and was gone. I was eleven, and this was the first president I “knew. He was a Democrat, and I knew my parents had been happy he had won.
Unlike today; there was no immediate backlash of evil responses, although through the the days and years following they have been made available. By the way Charlotte… the Kennedy assasination gave birth to my first experience with conspiracy theories and the world is filled with theories concerning the assasination to this day. The papers have still not been released in their entirety 58 years later.
There would be another major assasination five years later, although it seemed a lifetime later, when Martin Luther King Jr was killed. I was too old to be taken care of by Christine at this time, yet I remember my mother calling her from our yellow rotary dial land line phone hung on the kitchen wall and sobbing with her. A great man, a reverend had been killed. This event would set off a string of racial events for years to come, and a new vat of conspiracy theories. Color me ignorant Charlotte; but this is the first time I realized the color of our skin was such a defining feature to our existence. I knew nothing of people sitting on the back of the bus, people not using the same water fountains, or going to the same schools. I knew Christine was my other mom. She took care of me. She cooked my meals and read to me. She disciplined me, and she worked for my parents who she loved, and they loved her. They appreciated her. She and her husband Choice were family. There was never mention of being different because of black or brown skin, and I wonder if there should have been. I know now there should have been, and I wish I could go back and ask her questions about her growing up, and not just having her teach me how to scramble an egg, sew on a button, or iron a shirt.
Always ask the questions Bunchkie…always…because there will come a day when it will be too late…and unless the USA changes its educational systems you may never learn History.
And perhaps my biggest fear was set off a year before President Kennedy was assasinated.
The Cuban Missile Crisis. A one month and 4 day confrontation between the Soviet Union(Russia) and the United States. I was scared; the world was scared.. We had air raid warnings and still hid under our desks in school. I can still hear the sounds of those warnings as we practiced for what could be a nuclear war.. This event gave rise to a short story I wrote in my forties: “The Girl in the Maytag”. Thank you again Christine for finding me downstairs trying to hide in the dryer from the sounds of the sirens, testing our and my capacity to gain safety should we be attacked. A school desk and a dryer I assure you I know now would be no protection against a nuclear missile…I am happy I thought it would back then.
I am unsure how my peers felt about these events. I do not think we discussed them. Not in school because we were too young? Because learning cursive was more important? Because Jack and Jill were gender and racially biased? Because saying the Lord’s prayer and pledging allegiance to the flag would save me? Us? That is fodder for another story…Because girls wore dresses and boys wore pants…
The events were not discussed in my house over family dinners…and again; we had no internet with the ability to see events in real time.
So Bunchkie…my advice: Know your Histories…learn from our mistakes…History does repeat itself. Perhaps that is a Human characteristic, or perhaps it is the lack of acknowledging the events that went before us to create the present. I will always think things can and must be changed for the better of the existence of the one…and the all. Seek out the people who will help you make the world better. Be the person who will work to make the world better. I am counting on you.
From my heart with love, nana