When I see the Statue of Liberty I think about my grandparents. My dad’s parents came into this country from Germany through Ellis Island, an immigration station located near the Statue of Liberty. My mom’s father came in through the same immigration station from Spain. My mom’s mother came here from Puerto Rico. They all settled in New Jersey.
I look at the huge statute, a symbol of freedom and democracy and wonder what my grandparents were thinking and feeling when they saw Lady Liberty for the first time. I imagine they were a wreck of emotions, both overjoyed and scared to death at the same time. At that moment, they likely questioned if they’d made the right decision. But there was no turning back for my stubborn, committed ancestors.
What had prompted them to leave their home, family and lifestyle behind for an uncertain future? I wonder, could I ever be driven away from the life I know? What would it take for me to consider uprooting my family and moving to another country? It would have to be the pursuit of a new and better life for myself and my family.
I look at the statue and think about my grandparent’s jobs. I was young when they passed away, but I still have some vague memories of them. My memories, their occupations and brief stories told by my dad and mom help me piece together the story of who my grandparents were and what they represent to me.
My dad’s father painted trucks in a hot, dusty garage in West New York for a living. Dad’s mom was the resident manager of the of the low-rent apartment building they lived in. I remember visiting there once. The cramped stairways were dark and musty. The vinyl flooring was worn thin. Inside their small apartment the plaster walls were cracked and in need of a fresh coat of paint. The only light in their dark hallway came from an exposed light bulb hanging from a wire in the ceiling.
Dad’s father, Grandpa Julius smoked cigarettes and drank beer from the bottle. After he retired and after Grandma Martha passed away, he’d sometimes came to stay at our house for the weekend. It seemed to me that he spent the entire weekend sitting in the blue armchair in the living room smoking and drinking.
I don’t remember Grandpa paying much attention to me when he came to visit. He liked to play cards with my older brother and challenge him to arm wrestling. Grandpa was old but he was strong. He had huge biceps. He liked to roll up his sleeve to show off his muscles after he beat my brother at arm wrestling. It’s one of those nonsense memories that sticks with me. It helps me appreciate who he was, his modest way of life and how his influence, in part, shaped who I am and where I am now.
My grandparent’s lived simple lives. They could only afford the basics. I don’t know a lot of the details; they’re lost to me now that my dad is gone. But I do know Grandpa and Grandma were hard workers. They provided for my dad and made it possible for him to go to college, to get an education and to better himself. My Dad actually went on to earn his master’s degree in education. He was a high school teacher.
Thanks to my grandparent’s determination, courage and sacrifice, my dad lived a better, more financially stable life than they did. My grandparents had very little to give, but their combined efforts made a huge difference. My Dad built his own house complete with an above-ground pool. No more cramped apartments for him. And my parents happily lived in that house, enjoying home-ownership, a huge accomplishment they were both proud of, their entire adult lives.
Following my grandparents example, my parents did the best they could with a modest budget to instill a sense of purpose and a strong work ethic in me. My parents worked hard to give me and my two brothers a good foundation we could build on so we could live even more financially healthy lives than they had. My parents’ constant pursuit of improvement and their creative ways of solving problems gave me the confidence to pursue my dream and become an artist and writer.
When I look at the Statue of Liberty, I wonder why Grandpa and Grandma left Germany. Who and what did they leave behind? It couldn’t have been easy to move to a new country with a different culture, where everyone spoke a foreign language. When they arrived, they had no jobs, no money and no education. It’s a miracle they survived and succeeded in raising a successful and ambitious son.
My husband and I are carrying on the tradition and repeating what we learned from our parents. We’re doing our best to create a positive, nurturing environment for our daughters so they can live healthy, happy, fulfilling lives.
We all make ripples. Our lives touch others every day. Making a measurable difference isn’t exclusively for parents or grandparents. We impact friends, coworkers and students choices. We shepherd the directions they take, and we influence their attitudes. We’re helping them realize their potential, take action and reach their goals.
I wish my grandparents could meet my kids. In part, my grandparents played a role in their success. I try to imagine what Grandpa and Grandma would think of all the opportunities young people have today. They’d likely be overwhelmed, and hopefully overjoyed by the number of choices and directions that are accessible and obtainable for young people today. Our kids can dream, and they have the ability and resources to actually make their dreams a reality. If they’re confident, dedicated and willing to work hard, it’s within their power to do whatever they want to do. Our kids are capable of making their own happiness.
Likewise, I am, and you are capable of making our own happiness.
I’ll keep pursuing new experiences and a deeper understanding of art to improve my skills. And, I’ll work hard to enrich the lives of those around me by sharing my artistic talents. I’ll carry on the tradition of encouraging, providing and teaching, that my grandparents started.
It’s heartwarming to think about the changes and witness the transformation my family has undergone over the past 50 years. We’re living the dream. Each new generation has grown in strength and we prosper from our previous generations achievements.
Looking ahead, what will the lives of my great grandchildren be like? With the advances we’ve seen in technology in the past 20 years, it’s impossible to guess what their future in 20 years will resemble. Still I wonder, will my actions yesterday, today and tomorrow have an influence on their lives? I think, yes. It makes me feel small, insignificant and powerful at the same time. It inspires me to be more purposeful in my work and more supportive of groups, events and causes I’m passionate about. As I now know from personal experience, from the efforts of my grandparents, all our contributions matter.
When I see the Stature of Liberty I think about my grandparents. I picture their modest home and wonder if it was an upgrade from where they came from. Maybe their dreams came true in that small apartment where they found freedom and gained control of their future.
Here’s to all the brave men, women and children, the pioneers, who took bold action to better themselves for the benefit of future generations.
When I see the Stature of Liberty I think about my grandparents. I’m thankful for their adventurous spirit and for coming to America to seek a new and better life.
What comes to mind when you see the Statue of Liberty?
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Fun Facts About the Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty was a joint effort between France and the United States, intended to commemorate the lasting friendship between the peoples of the two nations.
The French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi created the statue itself out of sheets of hammered copper, while Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the man behind the famed Eiffel Tower, designed the statue’s steel framework. The Statue of Liberty was then given to the United States and erected atop an American-designed pedestal on a small island in Upper New York Bay, now known as Liberty Island, and dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in 1886. Over the years, the statue stood tall as millions of immigrants arrived in America via nearby Ellis Island.
In 1892, the U.S. government opened a federal immigration station on Ellis Island, located near Bedloe’s Island in Upper New York Bay. Between 1892 and 1954, some 12 million immigrants were processed on Ellis Island before receiving permission to enter the United States. From 1900-14, during the peak years of its operation, some 5,000 to 10,000 people passed through every day.
Looming above New York Harbor nearby, the Statue of Liberty provided a majestic welcome to those passing through Ellis Island. On a plaque at the entrance to the statue’s pedestal is engraved a sonnet called “The New Colossus,” written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus as part of a fundraising contest. Its most famous passage speaks to the statue’s role as a welcoming symbol of freedom and democracy for the millions of immigrants who came to America seeking a new and better life: “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me/I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Today the Statue of Liberty remains an enduring symbol of freedom and democracy, as well as one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks
These fun facts about the Statue of Liberty are from this website: Statue of Liberty