Posted by Debra Solomon Baker on May 18, 2013
Last summer, Max, Sarah, Lorne, and I visited the childhood homes of both my dad and my mom. A month ago, when Sarah was assigned to write a personal narrative about an important moment in her eleven-year life, she chose to capture her feelings about her grandfather by describing our visit to Ralph Avenue in Brooklyn.
My family and I stepped off the subway in New York City to visit Papa’s past. It was the first time any of us had seen where my grandfather grew up.
The first thing we noticed was how impoverished it was. I looked around at the barbed wire and the shabby stores.
When I heard the people across the street from us talking about how they were going to bail someone out of jail, I started thinking about where Papa lives now, in a fancy country club in Florida, with its pool in the backyard and the baby grand piano in the living room. I thought about how I was related to someone who must have worked so hard. Someone who didn’t just give up.
We walked past the grocery store and the laundromat, my mom snapping pictures all the way.
We were going to find where Papa had lived with his mother, Anna. His father died when he was very young. Anna was a Jewish immigrant from Poland. She left right before the Holocaust to come to America. Her only living relative to survive the Holocaust was her brother, Max. She met up with him when he came to America, but he died shortly afterward. Anna tried hard to make ends meet, but it was hard to get money. After a while, they went on welfare. Anna married two more times, but neither marriage lasted long. The first turned out to be a criminal and the second died about a week after their marriage.
After high school, Papa told Anna that he wasn’t going to college and instead he was going to work full time. That was the only slap across the face that he ever got from his mother.
“Education is the answer!” she yelled. It turns out that she was right.
Papa went to City College of New York and studied to be an accountant. After he got his degree, he decided that he would work all day and go to law school at night.
After he finished law school, he worked at a printing company.
After a while, he worked his way up to be president of the company, then owner, and he sold the company for a lot of money.
I was snapped back to the present when I heard my mom say, “Stand in front of the house so I can get a picture.” I looked up at the fading address on an apartment that appeared to have no one home. It was so marvelous to be standing in front of the apartment that my Grandpa used to live in.
I was suddenly overcome by a rush of emotions. I thought about how the people who live in this apartment now probably wouldn’t be as successful as Papa. I also thought about how my grandpa is a role model to show that you can get what you want if you really work at it.
The last thing that came into my mind as we walked back to the subway was how I want to be just like him when I grow up. I want to make him proud.