I speak of my grandparents
often at presentations. I tell of how they met as youngsters on their native
Aero, a picturesque Danish island, eventually wed and within months found
themselves enduring a lengthy journey in the belly of a transport, nourishing
themselves as best they could on cabbage soup and grabbing whatever rest they
could muster in the crowded, smelly steerage compartment so they could face the
challenges of their new, adopted land, the United States of America.
I tell of his struggles as a
journeyman cabinetmaker who found himself sweeping floors and hanging doors
instead of practicing the considerable skills he had learned from talented
Danish craftsmen because he didn’t speak the language or know the right people.
Despite the hurdles, my
grandparents did reasonably well. They lived within their means, were self
sufficient, enjoyed a wide circle of friends and raised a great family of
productive second-generation Americans. I always knew them to be gracious and
I thought about them the other
day on a walk through my suburban neighborhood. On one side of the street was a
father, giving his young daughter lessons on how to drive an all-terrain
vehicle. She was having a little trouble navigating around the driveway full of
the family’s cars. Parked across the street was her dad’s SUV with a large
transport trailer attached. This year the trailer seems to be destined to
transport the family’s ATVs. In the past, they’ve towed jet skis or boats on
the Fourth of July.
Parked in front of the SUV
were a couple of faded sedans, rust peeking around the doors and decorating the
fenders. In the yard were three men of apparent Latino lineage. Two were
talking with the property owner while the third was digging by hand beneath a
tree. A pile of dirt stretched between two other trees, an obvious beginning to
a landscaping project. Sitting on the dirt was a young boy, also of apparent
Latino lineage. He sat in the shade of the trees, watching ATV Girl across the
This is it, I thought, the two Americas that presidential hopeful John Edwards speaks about. I wondered about the little boy. Is he thinking the same things my grandfather thought when he first arrived in this country? What’s in his future?