Tuesday, July 1, 2008

36 Hours in Paradise

No matter where I'm coming from, no matter how long I've been gone, landing at General Mitchell International Airport always makes me cry. I'm just so happy to be home. The plane comes in low over the city. I look out the window down to the land and water below. There's the Hoan, and the Firstar building. We continue east out over lake Michigan and begin our turn towards the airport. As the plane descends, it seems as though we could just reach right out and touch the deep blue waves. A full 180 and the land comes into view again. There's my high school, and the football field. I can name the streets below like its a google map. There's Lake Shore Drive, and Packard, and Ramsey. There's my parent's house! And as we graze across the telephone poles on Pennsylvania, I know we'll soon be on the ground.
It wasn't any different this weekend. And also as usual, the trip felt far too short. But, it was absolutely wonderful! Before we were even in the out of the airport parking lot, before I could even ask, my sister piped up, "should we go home before we go to Leon's?" And that's how the weekend began, with frozen custard and my favorite people at 9:30 on a beautiful balmy night. And the weekend just kept getting better. The next day was Grandpa's surprise party! Where do we start? The gorgeous 80 degree weather, or the hundred-something relatives that came to my grandpa's birthday party? The weather speaks for itself. Even though it rained a bit twice, the sun quickly came back out and our spirits were not dampened.
By far, the best part of the weekend was sitting around listening to my grandpa's cousins, i.e. my first cousins thrice-removed!, talking about when they were younger, the relationships in the family and the cultural rivalries of their day. I was particularly amused that my great-grandparents were upset when my grandma and grandpa started dating because my grandpa is Polish and my grandma is German. Now it seems half the South Side is Polish/German! I certainly had plenty of friends growing-up who's mix included Polish and German. The really ironic part is that we're not quite sure what country some parts of the family are from because of constant wars and border shifts.
The old photos cousin Claudia brought were especially delightful. She even had the passports/entry documents from my great-great grandparents. These were my grandfather's maternal grandparents. The papers were from Ellis Island, dated 1918, and my relatives had marked the signature lines with their "x"s because they couldn't read or write. My great-great grandmother's had a picture in it. My great-great grandfather's did not. She looked to be a portly woman in her 50s or so, but I really have no idea on her age. Mommy tells me this is about as far back as we can trace this branch of our family. (I would like to point out, for my readers who may think that all "white" people can trace their families back super far and know where they've come from, that this date is only the beginning of the 20th century, we don't know exactly what the last name was because of spelling variations, and we're not actually sure what country they're from.)
Cousin Claudia's being there was in and of itself a very special treat for Grandpa. At first I didn't understand why Mommy introduced herself to Cousin Claudia and then took her around and introduced her to everyone and explained who they were. Then I found out, my grandfather's family had sort of split back when he was a kid. Her parents the the parents of the other cousins lost contact. Standing in the background, I listened to the cousins try to sort out what had happened.
One of the cousins was talking about how her parents always fought, and how her dad was only nice when he wasn't drinking, which wasn't often. Others had similar stories. Cousin Claudia figured that's why the family got split. She knew her mom didn't like all the drinking and stuff. It appeared Cousin Claudia had been quite young when the parts of the family lost contact, yet she still remembered some other relatives that the other cousins knew. It was neat to hear them exchange stories. It also turns out that Cousin Claudia knows all my grade school teachers (we moved when I was 10) and may have even served on the same committee as Mommy back in 1988!
Other excitement of the day included following around my adorable second cousins (my cousins' children), taking pictures of them; eating cheese, snaps and shampoo raisins; and answering questions with things like "yes, I'm the one that was in Africa," "no, I'm not the one that just got back from China, that's Katrina, she's over there."
After getting home from the party, Mommy, Wendy, Katrina, Nathan and I played games! We were up 'til past midnight. Nathan does a very good Elmer Fudd, and Mommy does a great Mae West.
The next morning, it was off to the airport. Far too soon. As we soared higher and higher into the sky, I watched the familiar places shrink away from me. Goodbye Daddy's office, goodbye 794, goodbye church, goodbye home.
(Original Post)
Lena Horne - The Lady is a Tramp (especially the part that says "hates California, it's cold and it's damp)


Mommy said...

slight correction

Slight correction - the papers were alien registration papers from 1918. They were your maternal grandfather's paternal grandparents on his mother's side...my grandpa's mother's parents (we think). Still have to get cd's to make copies for everyone...

goldenrail said...

Thanks Mommy. I tried to remember what Claudia told me, but it was difficult.

Mommy said...

Cute picture of Melina!

Sara Malchow said...

Thanks for the picutres!!! We recieved the discs yesterday and appreciate it so much!!