Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Taking the Ferry

 My mother used to tell us she had grown up as an Army Brat. As a child, I was never really sure what this meant. I knew the basics, of course. I knew her father had been a colonel and they had moved all over the world when she was young. I knew she had lived in Japan and Belgium. But I didn't really know anything about her - the young girl smiling back at me in all those black and white pictures.  I didn't know what her friends' names were. I didn't know what her favorite games were. I only knew the cursory details of her childhood.  

My nephew married his true love on Long Island in June. My parents had started making plans to fly up months ahead of time.  We were talking about the details of her flight when my mother tentatively asked if, perhaps, we could visit Governor's Island while they were "in town". 

"No worries," she said, "if we can't fit it in. It's just kind of been on my bucket list to see the island one more time. Oh, and the United States National Park Service was hoping to interview me for their archives."


Turns out that little girl in the pictures with the open smile was more than just my mom. Apparently, her family had lived in this important place, at an important time. So important, in fact, two Park Rangers interviewed her for over an hour and a half.

See that sweet faced girl on the far right? That is my mom. She lived in Bldg 54 for three years with her brother and sister. When we visited the island, our Park Ranger, Hillary, let us walk through the house my mother had lived in. She even took a picture of us in the exact same spot.

We walked around behind the building and my mom started pointing out all the little details of her life on the island. "This was the garage roof we climbed up on to perform 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' for the neighborhood children." "That window on the left up there was my bedroom window. I could see the Statue of Liberty every morning when I woke up."

She told us stories of how she and her friends would climb up on the old cannons and pretend they were space rockets.  Rockets that would shoot them into outer space to explore new worlds.  Stories of how those years had been wonderful and magical.

So here we were, full circle- over 60 years later. I felt like I had met that little girl with braids for the first time that day. I had sat on her front porch. I had seen where she ate breakfast every day. I now knew which way she had walked to school and I knew where she had learned to dance. It was wonderful and magical.

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