Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sunday Memories: Gambling for Freedom

The only way to find out all the details would be if one of us became so famous Henry Louis Gates, Jr. had us on his show.

What I had heard was Sophie left behind her mother and brothers, especially the one that was supposed to be her favorite, to come to the United States.  It was a gamble but she wanted a chance at a life that in Belarus was 100% impossible for Jews.  Like going to school or working at what she wanted to work at or voting for who she wanted to vote for (although I'm not sure if she was even allowed to vote - both as a Jew and as a woman).

So she left her family forever and leaped into an unknown that promised the elusive dream of breathing and moving and being just as she was.  Freedom.

First in Trenton and then in Brooklyn and then on the Lower East Side, the money tight, the tenements tough, the husband absent, somehow Sophie made a life and raised a child with more freedom than what she left behind.

That freedom didn't erase the poverty or the domestic abuse or the crushed dreams and the mean, mean loneliness.   But it did make sure she could work where she wanted, read what she wanted, say what she wanted and vote how she so chose.

And her daughter, Florence, got to go to school and college and graduate school, not because she was or was not Jewish, but because she was talented and smart.  And even if there were still rules and laws and customs that said she couldn't do everything she wanted to, Florence still had 100% more freedom than if she had been born in Belarus.

And because of that, I, Sophie's granddaughter, grew up with 100% more freedom than Florence, always believing it was my birthright to speak out loud and vote as I so chose and write bad poems (which, at times, is the epitome of freedom - it requires leaping into an elusive dream).

Money might still be tight but the apartment is as far from a tenement as you can go, there is no domestic abuse, loneliness is a long-ago memory, and I get to vote as I so choose.

It is because someone, a young girl, my grandmother, left her family forever and took a gamble on an elusive dream. 

Happy Fourth of July.

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