By early evening I am ready to relax. I don’t want to talk on the phone, answer emails or return messages of any kind. It’s been a long day, world; please let me shake it off in the short time of evening I have to myself.
When the phone rang I knew I was the designated answerer and reluctantly picked up the receiver. I was ready to give a snappy, “I’m in a hurry now, ‘can’t talk,’” when a sweet, very young voice said, “Hi, Grandma. It’s Xander.”
My joy overcame tiredness. Suddenly there was no better time for a telephone conversation. “May I interview you? It’s for a school assignment.”
He could have interviewed me if it was for the delegation sending aid to the super-rich.
“My third grade class is studying immigration and I have some questions for you about someone in your family who came to America as an immigrant.’
The person who came to mind was my grandmother, who arrived about the time of Word War 1.
Xander asked questions like, “How did she earn money when she first got here,” “Did she know anybody in this country when she came?” “How did she find a place to live?” He wanted to know about the journey here; “did she travel in steerage on the ship that brought her here?” “Did she meet anyone on the ship who became her friend?” “Did she go through Ellis Island?”
Although he was the person asking the questions, I was the one questioning myself.
“Why didn’t I ask my Grandmother more questions about herself? Why wasn’t I interested in knowing what life was like in Russia before World War 1? What did she think of America when she got here? Was it what she expected or was she disappointed?”
The wasted opportunities. The stories and experiences once available to me for the asking, now gone forever.
I haven’t many regrets in my life, but I do regret not collecting valuable information about my family; both those I knew and those I never met. Now it’s too late. There is nobody left to tell me.
I don’t even know enough to answer a third grade child’s questions.