Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness ©

A Story by Will Jones

Standing in the Reception Room in the big brick building on Ellis Island where millions of immigrants first arrived in America, it was easy to visualize the wooden benches lined with hopeful people of every age and nationality, and to hear the din of a dozen languages echoing off the plaster walls and tile ceiling. In 1926, my mother, then six years old, her mother and three siblings were among those hopefuls.

After a long trip in steerage, they arrived from Scotland on the USS California to join my grandfather who had come to the states in 1923 to work on the railroad in Philadelphia until he sent enough money home for his family to follow him. My grandmother, already thirty-seven and desperately seasick for the entire trip, bore two more children and lived to be one-hundred-and-four.

My wife and I visited Liberty Island and Ellis Island on a recent trip to New York to see some Broadway shows and visit with family.  The Big Apple was kind to us, especially gracing us with spectacular spring weather which led to lazy strolls in Central Park under full sunshine and an amazing canopy of new green leaves. And, biggest miracle of all, no humidity!

From New York we traveled to Boston to visit our son and daughter-in-law, and our three-month-old granddaughter, Saskia, our first grandchild. For a full five days we were enchanted by her beauty and her emerging personality. I think I learned more about love from watching her and interacting with her in those five days than I’ll ever be able to teach her.

I looked for traces of her great grandmother and her great great grandmother, who made that perilous and courageous journey eighty-six years ago, and I think I saw them in Saskia’s eyes, those windows to the soul that told me this baby, who neither of them will ever see, was worthy of their sacrifice. God bless America. God bless Saskia and her wonderful parents, Devin and Sarah. God bless us all.

photo by will jones

7 Responses to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness ©

  1. My family came to the USA in 1866, I’m unable to imagine what courage it took to leave everything behind and set foot in a country where I would know no one and speak no English.
    ~ shinazy

    • Malati Marlene Shinazy

      Intergenerational love … it makes my heart sing, Will. — mms

    • Will Jones

      My grandparents had the advantage of speaking the language, although my grandfather’s brogue was so thick – and his teeth so sparse – that I hardly understood a word when I was a kid!

  2. Will, your story was a touching blend of the past and present! The actions of those brave souls who journeyed to the New World still affect our lives to this day. Like you, my ancestors left their homes and loved ones (in Germany and Ireland) to find a better life in America, and now I will meet my first grandchild in just a few months. I am so grateful!

    • Will Jones

      Joy, Watch for an upcoming story of mine called “Grandchildren.” Since you will soon be one (congratulations!), I think you’ll like it.

  3. Malati Marlene Shinazy

    The intergenerational wisdom of woman. As relevant now as it was then. — mms

    • Will Jones

      Probably explains why it’s the statue of (Lady) Liberty, not the Statue of (Gentleman) Liberty! Can you imagine?