The Immigrants in My Childhood

I just ran across this story fragment on my computer. It seems appropriate for the week.

“I walked up the hill past the fading garden of Micheline, the French war bride, and turned into it. I took French lessons in her family room on Wednesdays after school in the third grade. I loved her accent—like she had marbles in her mouth. She used to grow dahlias in an enormous garden; later everything but. What must she have felt, leaving all she knew to sail across the ocean to a small town in the corner of America with a man she had just met? She made beauty in her unexpected life. She died last week. Au revoir, Micheline. Merci pour la beauté.

“On Saturday, the son of our former German neighbors and his wife came to visit the relatives who live now in the house with the apple orchard. They stopped by to see Momma. Gert was grown and gone when we moved here, but I babysat their girls when they came to visit his parents. I haven’t seen them since I was in high school. I was shocked that he is his father now, elderly and arthritic.

“They lived in Chicago when Gert was a small child in the 1930s. His mother, Margaret, had taken him to Germany for a visit with family when the war broke out. They were stuck there for ten years, separated from Gene—husband and father—and accidentally limiting their family to one child.

“Margaret made fudge at Christmas each year. I remember helping her in her small kitchen, stirring the dark bubbling liquid with a wooden spoon. I have that cracked spoon now, it has a chip scorched out of its tip from scraping chocolate off the bottom of the pan. It is a treasure.

“Micheline and Margaret’s voices, in their never-lost thick native accents, ring in my head now.”

2 thoughts on “The Immigrants in My Childhood

  1. Beautiful. Both sad and sweet. A bit like life itself. I love those kind of happy accidents !
    A “thing” can have a whole new life when a memory finds it and takes hold.
    Thanks for the lovely snippet.


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