Typically, I try not to go all maudlin on you, but since I am still suffering the Postpartum Thanksgiving Over-indulgence Blues, I got to thinking that just maybe I should be giving thanks to somebody for something.
Certainly not the five pounds I gained, nor the sustained headache from a continuous consumption of various forms of liquid holiday cheer.
(At this point, I’ll be thankful when all the leftovers are gone from the refrigerator.)
What I came up with was a thanks for being born with opportunities.
Specifically, thanks to my parents who “got me here,” and for instilling a worldview of people and an interest in travel.
I am a first generation American. My parents—both deceased—were both born and raised in Germany, but traveled in opposite directions around the world from their homeland, to ultimately meet in the San Francisco Bay Area, to marry and have a wonderfully perfect and awesomely cute son.
Oh yeah…and a daughter.
As if right out of some Hollywood romantic movie about new immigrants, they hooked up at a singles dance.
My sister found the records that show that he took a transport ship, named the General W.H. Gordon, in the fall of 1948. This is ironic as according to the ship’s history,
“She made numerous calls at Shanghai, China, and was said to be the last American ship to leave that port before the Communists took over the city in 1949.”
Had he delayed his departure by a few months, who knows if he would have had a departure at all?
What adds to the irony, is that I wrote about a B-17 flight I took a couple of years ago, in essence, on the same plane that bombed the shit out of Berlin just after the time my dad escaped Nazi persecution and immigrated to Shanghai.
I guess the cliché, “Timing is everything,” would be an understatement in both of those instances, at least as concerns my conception.
My mom headed west and lived in Scotland for nine years, went across the Atlantic lived in New York, and eventually moved to Oakland, California (hometown of our governor-elect, Jerry Brown). As far as I can tell from the records my sister has gathered, my mom flew from Europe to the east coast of the U.S. on a British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) Lockheed Constellation.
What made me think of the topic about how my parents, and ultimately me, got to America, was an article a couple of days ago about the 75th anniversary of the China Clipper’s first trans-Pacific flight between San Francisco and Manila, in the Philippines. Yes, I realize my mom flew across an entirely different ocean, but it was those early commercial, civilian flights that got my attention.
The Sacramento Bee story about that historic Pan Am trip in 1935, described the flight of the Martin M-130 seaplane. The 8,000-mile course took 59 hours. Only last year, I flew from San Francisco to Manila, and complained that it took a whooping 12 hours. Also, in today’s dollars, the 1935 trip cost $15,000 (and, most likely, did not include play-on-demand first-run movies).
Navigation back then was quite a challenge. Rather than multiple GPS receivers and satellite communications capabilities on modern crafts, back then, they plotted their course, “many times taking readings directly from the stars or the sun using a sextant.”
According to the story, the pilot, Edwin Musick, depended on his navigator, Fred Noonan.
It is of note that less that two years later, Noonan was also the navigator aboard Amelia Earhart’s ill-fated flight over the Pacific.
Back to my mom’s transatlantic plane ride and my dad’s voyage by ship, their immigration trek, like any long-distance travel back then, had plenty of perils to consider, both physical and psychological.
I cannot imagine what must have been going through their minds as they traveled on their way to the New Country.
The travails to travel have certainly changed in the 60+ years since they came to America.
Nowadays, we worry if we will survive the backscatter x-ray beam and the up-close-and-very-personal body groping at the airport, and wonder if we will have seen the in-flight movies already.
Back in the day, getting here was no easy task.
So, surely, I owe my parents thanks for the perseverance to have transported my DNA all the way around the entire globe just to make a “me”…oh yeah, and my sister.
And to that, I say,
“Don’t call me Shirley”