Immaculate Conception. I went to St. Mary’s School, and this might have been a “day off” for us (then again, we might have just had to go to early morning Mass that day before school… it’s been years, I don’t remember). I always remember it being a special day though.
Then one year my grandmother told me the story of when she left Poland. It seems that her parents had bid farewell to family & friends and headed to America. I have no idea why exactly they left. But, they came, they worked and they sent for their oldest child. The children were all staying with friends & family back at home. The oldest was Cioci Agnes. Who came to America, joined her parents and worked. Then the 3 of them sent for the next oldest. That was my grandmother, Mary. She was put on a boat somewhere in Germany. She was probably about 12 or 13 years old, leaving her home, her siblings and childhood friends behind, getting on a big boat headed for a mysterious new home. She left on December 8.
She did not arrive at Ellis Island like so many others. She told me she landed in Hackensack or Hoboken or some other NJ port with an “H” in it. She spoke no English, but had a paper with the address she was headed for in Pennsylvania. Someone saw that she got on the right train for Wilkes-Barre.
When she arrived at the station, a young man from around the corner from her parents was there to pick her up. His name was John. It was Christmas Eve. In my imagination, it was snowing pretty good. That makes for a good scene to picture. He would take her to her parents house, where, no doubt, Christmas Eve dinner preparations were underway.
John and Mary married. They had what from our perspective, would have been a hard life, living through 2 World Wars and the Depression. They learned English (as there were no ESL classes, it was done out of necessity to converse with teachers, shopkeepers, etc.) Grandpa had worked in the coal mines in Pennsylvania. Eventually, they moved to New York, where he worked in a carpet factory. Nanny was a domestic worker, and they also were building superintendents for a while (if you’re from NY, you’ll know what that entails, but this was back in the 40s and 50s so probably not the same headaches as they have now!)
John died on a December day in 1955, just before Christmas. I know it’s always been bittersweet for my Mom who was busy being cheerful for her kids, yet thinking of the Dad she was missing every year, just as I do. Mary died on a December day in 1980 – just before Christmas. I was living in Arizona, and came back for the funeral / Christmas. Her priest said to me, “She wanted you home in the worst way — and that’s how she got you here… the worst way.
This is my December 8 story. It’s more of an all-purpose December story, but it comes to mind in particular on December 8, as that’s when the family story really starts.