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Monday, December 5, 2011

How far is it?

The part that gets me every time I think of it is the three-month-old baby.

My grandmother was three years old when her family sailed to Amerika from Sweden in 1886. They spent at least two weeks in steerage, with just a few meters each for themselves and their stuff. Hannah, my grandmother, was three and she had four older brothers all under eleven. I suspect they were not content to stay quietly and still within their few meters. My poor great-grandmother, can you imagine? Riding herd on five restless children in quarters that, let's just say, were less favorable than flying coach.

But the part of the story that gets to me every time I think of it is that Hannah's mother had a three-month-old baby along too. Nursing. Was there milk enough? How did she manage to keep track of the boys, and little Hannah, and nurse a baby all at the same time? Holy mothers.

Of course, she had a husband to help and I'm sure he did. But mothers feel it, that lock on the heart, that stretching out of shape, that radar that makes them crazy.

All that and now, here we are. I fly to Sweden in a few hours. I drink Starbucks enroute. I am in a reasonable chair, even in coach. I get a warm washcloth as we approach Stockholm to soothe my brow. And we eat pretty well.

How far is it, from Sweden to Amerika? From America to Sweden?

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