My father escaped communist Lithuania as a child. His extended family went to see him and his parents off. When they arrived, the barge they were to be on had exploded and they presumed that my father and his parents were dead. Little did they know, my dad had gotten away on the barge before it.
My mother was born in a refugee camp in Germany after her parents and sisters had escaped Lithuania.
These two families came to America as many others like them with mere suitcases. Our family doesn’t really have heirlooms or generational hand-me-downs, because everything was reset in 1950.
When interviewing my grandparents in my teens, I asked what it was like during war time. My grandmother explained the bombs with a residual fear in her eyes forty years later. My grandfather told of finding a hole in the fence of the refugee camp and going to the post office. They both told stories until they were emotionally halted. In reverence for their jumping blood pressure and heart health, I didn’t ask again.
These are the experiences that color our history and define my lineage. I feel like 9-11 and this pandemic are two events that will define my family. I was pregnant with my oldest during 9-11. His senior year has been halted by the Corona Virus.
I 100% recognize the ease with which we are living in isolation. My spouse is still employed. He’s working from his favorite room in the house; the pub. Neither of us work in the medical profession. We have electricity and running water. We have internet (as mentioned in my last post, I dare not look away.) I am not considered essential in terms of my work- but I know I am essential to my family. So, I’m going to lay low. I’ll ride this out while binge-watching streaming shows and working on a 2000 piece puzzle which will cause me to mutter under my breath at its complexity. This all seems okay to me.
Do not interpret my philosophy as dismissive to the very real anxiety, depression, boredom, or sadness that people are experiencing. There is so much that is unknown, and uncertainty is difficult to process. There is so much life that has been halted. The same was true for my grandparents. I personally, don’t feel that I have the luxury of lingering in self pity as an adult. We are all in the same places of unknown, some more-so with disappearing incomes and ill loved ones. While we may not have much to occupy our time, we do need to guide our children with courage and fortitude into the said unknown, while doing what we can to protect them.
I reached out to see how my sister-in-law was doing. Her family history is similar to mine in that her grandparents literally walked out of Lithuania and came to America. She said, “I feel in some way, we are more prepared for this than we give ourselves credit. We became parents less than a day before the world changed forever- at least for our generation. All the stories told by our grandparents taught us about resilience. Patience. Faith.”
Memes compare the trauma of World War II to the simplicity of sitting at home right now. What stories are in your family’s history that you can draw strength from? Where are your people from? What hardships have they known? If you don’t know the answers already, now is a great time to find out!