Dani Shapiro
January 21, 2009

On Family History, Part II

Jacob’s fourth grade immigration project has forced me into folders and boxes, looking for more pieces of our family’s past. I kept thinking about previous generations yesterday, while sitting with Michael in our library and watching the inauguration of our 44th President. What an amazing day–one so full of hope and promise. It was a moment that seemed so unlikely in our lifetime, and nothing more than a dream in the lifetimes of generations past.

Who were these people? What were their hopes and dreams?

As days speed by in a blur of activity, attempts at productivity, and the solipsism of modern life, it’s so easy for me to lose sight of where I come from, not all that long ago. That photograph was taken in Vilna, Lithuania; none of my relatives pictured survived the war. And here is another one, of my great-great grandmother Zelda, who I believe was born in Springfield, Massachusetts:

Zelda! I look at her face (and her bosom!) and don’t see myself. But she is a part of me. They all are. And increasingly that feels like an important thing to remember.