Because of today’s date…
…of course New York is on my mind, so I’d like to share a memory from one of our family day trips to “the city” as we’d call it.
Our trip to the city was different than usual in November 1990, because our family decided to explore a piece of our family history through Ellis Island in New York Harbor. Yia-Yia (Grandma in Greek) and cousin Bessie immigrated from the island of Cyprus all the way to America through Ellis Island in 1930-ish. Yia-Yia was a determined young woman with two small sons who made the long journey with hopes of a better life here. She settled with her husband, children, and several extended family members in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. She learned English, raised three sons and one daughter (my Mom), and showed off her skills as a seamstress. This day in 1990, though, was a special one. It was the day Yia-Yia would have the opportunity to see her name and her family’s name on the American Immigrant Wall Of Honor. At that time, Ellis Island no longer served as a port of entry, but as a National Museum Of Immigration. It was a time capsule and tribute to those who traveled from all over the world to America. A huge restoration was completed and ready for the public a few months prior to our visit.
I wish I had more memories of that day than I do, but I was a moody 11-year-old kid probably feeling bored or cheated out of kid fun for at least part of the time. However, I do remember feeling proud to be part of this special day for Yia-Yia, Bessie, and for us as a family. I remember my connection to the city growing stronger. I remember feeling admiration for Yia-Yia’s bravery in coming to a foreign country (without yet knowing the language, customs, or geography) because freedom, opportunity, and a better life were promised for her family.
This is what I’ll look back on and cherish today.