True stories with a twist!

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.

Comments on: "THIRD GRADE INTERVIEW" (25)

  1. Not sure where my other comment went??? Finished reading your chapter. Brilliant. But honestly, you need to do a children’s version of Percy!!! Seriously.

  2. I remember when my kids would call my parents when working on similar class projects. Like you, they did their best and maybe they didn’t always have all the answers, but I always felt grateful that they were there to call and eager to help. Your grandkids are lucky to have your support and influence.

  3. fransiweinstein said:

    My maternal grandparents both came from Russia as well. My grandmother always used to tell stories of her voyage. Pretty grim. And they landed in Ellis Island, where the immigration officials changed my grandfather’s name, as they did for so many of the immigrants because they couldn’t pronounce them. They left my grandmother’s but changed my grandfather’s to Bloom, because it was spring and the flowers were blooming. They married in NY when my grandmother was 17 and stayed there, with the rest of my grandfather’s family, until my mother and her twin sister were a year and a half — and then, leaving my grandfather’s brothers and sisters behind, they joined some of my grandmother’s sisters and brothers in Montreal.

    • How wonderful that your grandmother told stories about her voyage. Mine never would tell me very much, even though I asked what life was like for her as a child.

      • fransiweinstein said:

        That’s a shame. I used to love hearing the stories. Life was very tough back then. But they were all so resilient.

  4. Ronnie … All I have of my Grammy (and grandparents) are a few photos and a sketchy memory of what she was like. Like you, I wish I had more information.

    This is an assignment I’ve given my students in 7th grade. Some don’t know their heritage, their religion. Just so much information is lost or not discussed. Sad.

  5. Aw, you grand is a cutie! His questions were sincere and wise. They also raise questions — as you rightly pointed out — about how much we know about our parents and grand parents.

    Here I didn’t get the chance meet either of my grand fathers. The much I know about them all come from my parents lips.

    History is meant to preserved. And this is one of the ways we can do so.

    • Yes, I agree. I think it might be easier for the next generation to find out information about what our lives were like by all of the written histories we are providing: through the public writings and histories available.

  6. My wife got that call a couple of years ago. Now she’s writing out her family history. Her father left a very good written history before he died and she’s filling in the details from her life with a bit of other research from her mother’s family.

    I am not full sure how my family ended up in America but best I’ve been able to find out is that likely a judge in London invited us to leave England on the next boat…

    • I suspect many people are here for the same reason! Except I know you’re joking! But it’s sad that we didn’t ask when we had the chance to learn about the past of our family members.

      Good for your father-in-law for leaving a family history. Sometimes I feel like asking my mother something and then remember she is no longer here.

  7. Oh, I so know what you are feeling Ronnie. I wish too that I had more information about my parents and grandparents and before. I often wish they were bloggers but this wonderful medium was not available then. Determined to answer some questions for my own grandchildren I began my first blog. It was called Technicolor Day Dreams because it was full of flashback memories of my family and my childhood. Then I converted all those stories and memories into a book with a “blog-to-book” service. My library is growing. I added Virginia Views Volume I and II and now working on Volume III. I hope you have thought of doing a blog book too. Xander would love it.

  8. Like you, I wish I had asked more questions of my grandparents so I could know more about their past. My grandparents came from Czechoslovokia and Poland so knowledge of their lives is lost for the most part.

  9. Love this- yes a phone call from a grand would make me stop whatever I’m doing– I remember my kids interviewing my parents about their lives– I guess one day my grands will be calling me.

  10. I hear you on this one. I wish so much that I would’ve dove deeper into my paternal grandparents’ histories while they were alive. Luckily, my mother has good information from her side, and she’s relayed some of that to my kids for school projects similar to your grandson’s.

    What a sweet person to get a call from. Even as an introvert, that’s one phone call I’d welcome, too!

    • You’re lucky your mom has enough information about her side of the family; my husband’s grandparents actually lived with his family, and yet he never probed for information about their earlier lives.

      My grandchildren couldn’t believe that I was actually alive to watch the first man land on the moon!

  11. mysending said:

    My granddaughter also attempted to gather information about our family last year. Because I have very little idea where we came from (except Mama’s side was from Pinsk and Papa’s side from Minsk), she pretty much featured the other side’s story in her report. Yup–same thing, no one thought it mattered where you came from–just where you were going!

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