BETWEEN THE LINES

Finding family

August 9, 2016

Tags: family, Brooklyn

Blog: finding family

About two months ago I received a letter in the mail. The postal mail, not email, which has become an unusual treat. As he handed me the envelope, Robby looked at the return address and asked me if I knew the sender, whose surname was the same as my maternal grandmother. “Could be a long-lost relative,” he said.

It was.

My second cousin (who I did not know existed) wrote that she came across a blog I posted in February titled “Hanging with grandchildren and ghosts in Brooklyn,” in which I mentioned my grandmother’s name and that she once lived on Keap Street in Williamsburg. My cousin wondered if my grandmother could be her great aunt of the same name. The details she supplied – the name of the town in Ukraine that my grandmother and her brother left over a century ago, the dates and circumstances of their immigration – were enough to convince me. The photograph of her grandfather, who looks just like his sister – my grandmother – took my breath away.

Over the past two months, my sister and I have been getting to know this new cousin. My sister has been filling in blanks in our extended family genogram. As with many Jewish families from Eastern Europe, there are big holes in that family tree and each new name, each newly discovered connection is precious. I now have three new cousins, dozens of new/old family photographs, and some wonderful family stories. I hope to meet these new relatives before too long.

Like I said: precious.

The Grandmas of Brooklyn

April 11, 2012

Tags: grandparents, Brooklyn

My daughter’s Brooklyn neighborhood is swarming with grandparents this week. On the sidewalks and playgrounds and parks, in the libraries and coffee shops and museums, gray-haired out-of-towners push strollers and hurry to keep up with scooters. We lug cotton bags with sippy cups and snack-keepers, with fruit gummies and pirate booty and goldfish (these, at least, I recognize) – all of us thrilled to hang out with our grandchildren during April vacation. Much of the experience is expected: the pleasures and delights of the barely-remembered rhythms of a small child’s day, the challenge of getting down on the floor to do puzzles and build Lego palaces, and then get up again. The exhaustion at the end of the day.

The biggest surprise for me this week has been play-dates. We didn’t use that term when my daughters were little, but of course the activity is familiar. The twist is that many of the playdates are shared by little kids and their grandparents. AND an added delight that these Brooklyn preschoolers are amusingly creative when it comes to their names for said grandparents.

Yesterday, my granddaughter Josie and I hung out with her BFF and her “Gabby” and “Keepa.” Today it was another friend and her “Gaga.” And I should mention that Josie calls me “Meema” and her grandfather “Peepa.”

All these grandparents, and so far not a "Grandma" or "Grandpa" in sight.