I was born the daughter
of European immigrants,
smack in middle of baby boomer years—
a first generation American,
parents and grandparents
from another world. Landed on Ellis Island
to begin a similar struggle faced
by all immigrants, even today.
Grandma, orphaned in Poland—
World War I, trekked to Brooklyn
with brother’s cash—
earnings from a Viennese haberdashery,
opened a dry goods store under Brooklyn’s L train,
his long hours laden with fatigue.
In the journal found in her closet
thirty years after suicide,
I learned of grandma’s struggles:
World War I erupting on the streets
of her childhood town,
a teenager’s move to Austria,
Such challenges growing up in an immigrant home:
wasting anything was a sin,
mother went to the supermarket every day,
and I got punished if I didn’t finish my food.
Dinner conversations laden with immigration stories
of packing belongings into small suitcases
and crossing worldly oceans,
like I now pack my words
into my journal’s pages.
My parents and grandparents
spoke of ship-laden illnesses—
more dead bodies than countable.
Each day thankful for a life
in their new homeland,
both grateful until death.
My life now is a new chapter
in this immigrant daughter’s life.
by Diana Raab