Family history is not just a collection of vital records – the who, what and when. For me, it’s more about the why and the how. Those items we have so lovingly saved help round out the stories of our ancestors. There’s something about holding your great-grandmother’s slippers that cements that family connection.
My mom was the “curator” of our family “museum” and I am privileged to continue that tradition. Luckily, my husband understands the importance of family. Otherwise, he might not be so supportive of the numerous items that reside in our home.
Today’s post is about one of the first items my mother, Doris Lichtenthal Falcone held in her own hands after entering this country from Austria in September 1938. Here, in her words, is the story of her emigration. (Years ago, my daughter, Caitlin interviewed her grandmother for a school project. The following is an excerpt from that interview)
I left Austria in 1938 at the age of 6. The Nazis came, took over our apartment and put my father in Concentration Camp.”
|Doris’ 1938 Passport photo
“I think it was night time. I remember looking out the window and seeing a big hotel on fire. Wasn’t really sure where we were going. Ended up in Holland. At some relatives of people that worked for the Holland-America Line. Think he was a ship captain. Holland was great – so clean so beautiful. Had a really nice time. Next thing I knew we were on a ship. The thing was rolling. I was sick. My mother was fine – she was having orange juice. I told her to tell the captain to stop the ship because I want to get off. Think it was the channel. Stopped at England somewhere. Then went on to United States. I don’t really remember getting off the boat. Relatives came and took us home. It was 1938. Terrible hurricane. We were in Merrick, Long Island. All I remember is being in the basement and my aunt gave me a candle-holder to hold. It was a terrible hurricane. – still have the candle-holder. Yea- that was our trip. Then we went to New Rochelle because my mother’s brother was the manager of the apartment house. And that’s where we stayed.”
Nearly 80 years later, we still have that candleholder. It sat on a dusty shelf above my mother’s washing machine for years. I never even knew about it until she shared that story with my daughter. Had she not told the story, that item most likely would have been tossed without a thought when she passed away in 2011.
Instead, it is now part of our family story. Each time I look at that simple glass candleholder, I remember the struggles my mother and her family endured. Their strength is part of our legacy. Having a physical reminder of that is quite powerful.
What item do you possess that evokes an important family memory? Have you taken a photo of it? Have you shared or recorded the story associated with it? If not, the story will end when you do (oh-how morbid!) Take a minute to snap that photo. Save it somewhere (digitally or print it the old-fashioned way) and write a sentence or two so your descendants can understand its place in your family history.