Waking this morning to news of detentions at airports of visitors, refuges, immigrants and green card holder from middle eastern countries listed in President Trump's recent executive action immediately raised my anxiety/compassion level. These reports sadly melded with my own family story of an immigrant detention at port of entry.
In 1921 my Sicilian grandfather, long a citizen of the United States and veteran of service in the US Army durning World War I, returned to the US from a visit to his homeland. He brought with him a new wife and her 10 year old sister. Upon arrival at Ellis Island the authorities were required to admit my grandfather as a citizen and his wife by virtue of that citizenship. But his young sister-in-law did not fit into that formula. She was neither his wife, daughter or blood relative. Although he asserted his willingness to fully support this child he could not prove his ability to do so. He had been out of the country for almost a year and therefore could not provide evidence of gainful employment. He must have had savings because within four years he would by a three family house in Brooklyn. But it may also have been impossible at that moment to provide proof of any assets. The authorities determined that the 10 year old girl who could not speak anything but Sicilian had to be detained in Ellis Island facilities until my grandfather could return with proof that he could support her and prevent her becoming a burden to society and government coffers.
An Italian woman with young children apparently took little Carmelina under her wing for guidance and protection. It was November and during my aunt's two week detention Thanksgiving was celebrated and a special meal provided. Eventually my grandfather returned with proof of support in the form of bank passbooks or a pay stub and the small family was reunited. Our family heard this story recounted by my Aunt Millie every Thanksgiving. As a child myself I remember being horrified at the tale and wondering how this could possibly have been done to a little girl.
This mornings' news went directly to the memory of this story. Today as a mother and grandmother I struggle to imagine how my grandmother may have cried and screamed at being separated from her little sister in a strange and forbidding place after a long ocean voyage. My heart still cries for the little girl who never knew her own mother and looked to her sister for everything in her life feeling such panic and wailing at their separation. It is within this emotional space that I considered the stories of those detained at airports this weekend; many already extensively vetted, some holding 'green cards' as vetted resident aliens in the US who work here, own homes, have families and pay taxes.
On Saturday, January 28, when Brooklyn Federal District Court Judge Ann M. Donnelly upheld an action by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging detentions by executive order she wrote that such detentions could cause "irreparable harm". I can attest to the irreparable harm done to my dear aunt by her detention so many years ago. Each time I heard her anguished story I thought, "Thank God they don't do that anymore." How wrong I was.
message comes to bring you joy! May that joy begin with this photo. Matilda
welcomed her brother into the family of Teresa and Andrew Pleva on September
16, 2016. They live in Kingston just two blocks away from the house where I
raised my sons. That house now belongs to Heidi and Matthew Pleva along with
their son Harrison, age 2. Having three little ones nearby makes for lots of
time together and my ability to assist a bit in their care.
marked one year since my departure from the Redemptoristine Community in
Beacon, NY. The emotional and logistical complexities were so complicated in
2015 that many heard little from me last Christmas. I relied on email and
Facebook to remain connected. Fortunately, I can now report that the year 2016,
while a busy one, allowed for good adjustment and happy resettling in a
comfortable new home. My two bedroom apartment in senior housing provides a
safe, convenient, sunny hermitage of sorts with ample space for my creative
efforts, as well as overnight guests, all only a short ride from the little
Shortly after relocating
I began reorganization of the library at Linwood Retreat Center in Rhinebeck.
There was a good bit of driving involved at that time as I was also visiting my
mother in a Brewster Nursing Home. The day after I finished the library
project, my mother died. My sister and I knew that she was slipping away but we
did not expect it on that day. She was laid to rest alongside my father in the
graveyard of St. Mary’s Church, Tuxedo, NY. She was 92 years old. Unlike the
situation surrounding my father’s death in 2013, this was a much more peaceful
time because house and possessions had already been dealt with. We are fortunate
to have so many of my parents’ beautiful things, especially my mother’s
paintings. Most of all, we are blessed with the intangibles; values, memories,
and heritage. How often during this current election cycle I have wished to
discuss it all with my father! How often I think of my mother’s beauty when I
handle an accessory or piece of jewelry which she enjoyed wearing in her
has been lovely to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. In their
company I enjoy concerts at Bard College (Puccini last summer) live via HD
video performances from the Metropolitan Opera, strolling through the Rhinebeck
Sheep and Wool and New England Fiber Festival and leisurely luncheons. I have
joined St, Joseph Parish in New Paltz, became a lector and offered an
introduction to Sacred Scripture class. Am also blessed by friendship with the
Brothers at Holy Cross Episcopal Monastery. My friendship with and affection
for the nuns of my former community continues. We have enjoyed visits
particularly those with a grandchild in tow.
Most lovely of all
discoveries is that in spite of being removed from the heart of the family for
15 years the connection with my sons remained a deep one only to be picked up
again where we left off. Now there are three wonderful daughters-in-law
involved and five grandchildren. It seems that it is a mutual joy to be present
to each other but also respectful of the individuality of our lives. At this
time, I am reminding them that they are the greatest gift given to me.
Today I mark one month of
a bout with a bug common these days which has left me with what I have
diagnosed as a chronic bronchitis. This kept me at home for Thanksgiving and
caused me to miss lovely activities including singing at the holiday concert of
the chorus I have joined. But last Sunday I took Matilda to see “The
Nutcracker”. Each week I have Harrison with me for the day. He just turned two
and I am mesmerized by his acquisition of vocabulary, exploration and
manipulation of new construction toys and his observations of the world around
him. Matilda is asking about another sleepover at Nonna’s. She just turned
three and in caring for her one day a week for the spring and summer this year
I found her such good and loving company. Homer is 3 months old; a happy little
baby greeting all with a smile. My bug has kept me from spending more time with
him. This summer, through their generosity, I spent a few days on the Maine
shore with Jonathan and Kim and grandsons Nicholas and Benjamin. Later I had
the pleasure of being with the boys while their Mom and Dad were in New
Orleans. Interesting to spend a week with a 12 and 9 year old. We had fun both
in Chelmsford, MA where they live and down here in Kingston. All the cousins
just love being with each other. Matilda loved cuddling with her big cousins
and they are so good to her. We will all be together during New Year’s weekend.
In reporting all of this
to you and in listening to the news each day I am keenly aware of my blessings
in a very troubled world and nation, not to mention the extreme suffering of so
many. Since the presidential election I have been asking myself how I can
respond as just one little person, merely able to feel her way through Baby
Boomer Seniorhood! Wary of being consigned to the ranks of the educated elite
living in ivory towers, I struggle to find my voice and ways of expressing the
viewpoints of a longtime student of history. Guess that is one of goals for
I look forward to more
amazing time with my little and not so little “Chicklets”. Time with them is pure gold.
Thank you for all of the
support and encouragement I have received from you. I look forward to hearing
from you about your year. Thanks to those of you who have patience with and
accept email delivery of this message. The time and money saved in the process
allow me to connect via surface mail with those who have not discovered the
wonders of online communication.
May the joy of Christmas
bring peace and hope to your hearts.Much