Monday, July 5, 2010
Happy Birthday America
Early in the 20th century, my grandfather Mendel left Russia knowing he would never see his parents again. He came to America, to New York, and like many recent immigrants, became a peddler. My great-grandfather invited him home for lunch after Sabbath services and introduced him to his daughter, Rachel Esther. In a nice ironic twist for this blog, my grandmother was born on the 4th of July, a genuine American beauty.
As the story unfolds, Mendel and Rachel were married and moved to Lancaster, South Carolina, then a small quiet town (now an outlying suburb for Charlotte, North Carolina). They opened the town’s mercantile (general store) and began raising their eight sons and daughters, one of which was my mother, the original Evelyn. They were the only Jewish family in the town, but my mother never recounted a single tale of anti-semitism. Her best friend, Lib Ferguson, would take my mother to Tent Revival Meetings – and she loved all the drama and energy she’d find on those evenings. It was an idyllic childhood, with high-spirited siblings and bountiful family dinners. One by one, my grandfather’s brothers immigrated to America, and each would open a mercantile in yet another small Southern town.
I’m in awe of my grandfather’s courage. He embarked on an adventure without a clear roadmap of where he was going or how he would live. Granted, life in Russia was bleak. He would have been conscripted into the Russian army and his hometown was the target of anti-semitic pogroms. So he chose the unknown over the known because America was the land of freedom and opportunity, neither of which he would find in his native land. We need to remind ourselves about that truth on not only this holiday weekend, but also on those days when there are no fireworks and no red, white, and blue bunting draped on the porches of homes across this great land.
Our country is far from perfect, but the foundation of this nation is as close to perfection as humans can get. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That’s what my grandfather sought when he crossed the Atlantic in search of a new homeland. It’s what we still must strive to attain.
Happy Birthday America.
Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David
Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David
Murder Takes the Cake by Evelyn David