Thursday, March 20, 2008

Coming to America: Part 1

I often wonder what my children will remember from their early years. Will they remember trekking through ancient Mayan ruins on our vacation? Will they remember the colors and feel of their favorite sweatshirt? Will they remember our daily bicycle rides through the forest? Will they remember the words to our beloved goodnight song?

Photos help spark memories. On rainy days, we crawl into bed with our favorite albums. We often flip through them and the children cry out many “I remembers.”

“I remember when we rode in Dave’s convertible!”
“I remember when you filled up our kiddie pool with flour!”
“I remember when we tackled Cocia Natka on the Polo field.”
“I remember….”


But. What will their first memory be of, that is not photo sparked?

Growing up in the heat of Polish communism I have less then a dozen pictures documenting the first six years of my life. My younger sister has three. This contributes to her middle child syndrome. My American born baby brother has shelf loads of albums to help him spark memories.

My first memory, that is not photo sparked, is of the night we left Poland.

I remember the rain that fell that night was much colder than any other rain I have felt before. I remember it was a perfectly dark night and for a five year old the darkness was frightening. I remember the warmth of my mother’s hand as she held onto mine. I remember my two year old sister heavily asleep in my father’s arms and her shallow breaths released in air. I remember the three story brick building we stood outside for hours, in the dark, in the rain, and alone. I remember bland potato soup for dinner was served in metal army canisters. I remember being assigned one heavy army style bunk bed for our entire family of four. I remember the rough texture of the brown blanket my mother lovingly tucked me in with.

This is all that I remember of our first night at the Austrian refugee camp. It was a safe place that other immigrants fleeing from the iron gates of communism stayed. It was temporary until families found new living arrangements in Austria, a foreign land.

My first memory is that of the love my parents had for us that night.

And so, I wonder what my children’s first memory will be.


Left: Picture of OHmommy in Gdansk, Poland

Right: Family passport picture of my mother and sister and me.

89classy comments:

Karen MEG said...

Ohmommy, what a poignant, powerful post... the words, the beautiful pictures, the heartfelt imagery. Childhood memories that are so strong you can feel them to this day.

Your brave, loving parents... I cannot imagine going through what they (and the young you and your sister) went through to come to a better life.

amanda said...

I'm always curious about what Allie's first memory will be. Mine is of one of my older cousins taking a box out of my hands.
-Amanda

Karen said...

Wow. Amazing. Memories are so very powerful.

From what I've read of your family, I'm sure your children's first memories will be of love as well.

April said...

Thank you for sharing that. It really helps to put things in perspective.

Jane the Sane said...

What a beautiful picture. You resemble your mother. I am sure your children will have wonderful memories, even without photos. A certain smell, or a song, or even the angle of light have sparked a memory in me and I am sure they will have the same experience.

Ashlee said...

You feel the same as I do about memories and pictures. When we look back what is it that we will remember? What about our kids? Loved your post. :0)

Stella said...

What incredible memories. I cannot imagine the life you have lived and have to share with your children and with us. Absolutely incredible.
I am honored to call you my friend because of your strength and courage that you and your family have!

Your mother is beautiful in that picture!

FUN-ky Mama said...

What a thought-provoking post.
One of my earliest memories is from preschool. It was Halloween, and they had a witch come in! I was terrified.
I think you look like your mother.

Kellan said...

I often wonder what my children will remember too. I love your story. I love your telling of your story - I could almost feel the warmth of your mother's hand ...

Take care - my friend.

MamaWise said...

Oh wow! The picture on the left looks just like FiFi... did you notice that?

My first memory was when my family was living in Canada and I was 2 years old. My mother's father had come over from Poland for the very first time and I remember hiding behind my mother's skirt because I was scared to meet him.

My most vivid memory after that was when I was sent to preschool by my parents not knowing one single word of English and being talked to by the teachers and kids in a language that was just gibberish to me! It was scary.

Tracey said...

My first memory is brief. I wasn't more than 2 and a half... my baby sister was lying in a bassinet in the living room and I was looking at her, then across the room to my parents who were sitting at the kitchen table with their best friends. I remember laughter, safety, and comfort...

Amy said...

This is such a great story to tell. My grandparents immigrated from Holland. I loved hearing stories of their journey and why they left Holland. Someday Jay, Lola and Fifi's children are going soak up every detail of your stories.

Kristen said...

What a wonderful post. How amazing your parents are. To risk everything to give you a better life..........such a self-less act.

Thank you for letting us get a glimpse of what your earliest memory is.

By the way, your curly hair is just too cute.

Rachel said...

Wow.
Your posts are so often funny and silly and wonderful, and yet every now and then POW. You hit us with something as powerful and amazing as this and we remember that there's a history to you, a life... struggle, hardship and triumph... it's not all sassy high heels and baby name changing. You are inspirational and it comes from experience and life.
You are wonderful. Thank you for sharing this.

Cheri said...

What a surprise! I popped over from Jamie's blog to find this powerful, incredible story. Bless your heart.

the dragonfly said...

Thank you for sharing that. Your memories of that night are strong, tactile: soup, a bunk, a blanket, a hand. It's wonderful that love overshadows all the things you could touch and taste and see.

Jeni said...

Such a beautiful post of your memories about leaving Poland. Your mention of photos and memories reminds me of my younger daughter when she was small. She would often talk about things in a manner indicating she knew exactly what happened here and there, etc., but often they were things before her time. When one of the older siblings called her out on this, telling her she wasn't even born when this or that happened, therefore she couldn't possibly remember it, she spouted off, "I remember it from pictures."
We still tease her today about her "photographic memory."

Sue said...

Your memory beats mine. I had no idea of your background, but you put it so eloquently. I am intrigued.

sogratefultobemormon.wordpress.com said...

hi ohMommy,
beautiful post. thanks for sharing a little bit of this. it is fascinating. they will have it better than you did and better than those before you. it will keep getting better, kathleen

Happy Days said...

That is a beautiful story! Very well written. I am sure your children's memories will be of love as well. Thanks for sharing your memory. It gave me goose bumps.

Stephanie said...

That was such a beautiful and memorable post. Gave me chills. I love when memories can move a person like that. That's something you can share with you children and grandchildren one day...

Jolyn said...

I found this so fascinating. You will be so glad you wrote this down. Looking forward to Part 2 (and 3, and 4...).

Irene said...

What a wonderful story. Thanks so much for sharing it.

Crystal said...

What exactly did you do with the kiddie pool of flour??
That is a very strong first memory to have. I am sure it has shaped your outlook on life in so many ways. It is one thing to know family history and quite another to remember it.
My brother and I have very different memories of our childhood and our parents separation. I was 5 and he was 3.

Lisa said...

I remember when I was young watching the news about Poland. What an incredible story--your words need no pictures :)
I am sure your kids' first memory will be the same as yours--their parents' love!

Marie around the World said...

I am impressed and I will read your post to my daughter.
It's such a fascinating post, thank you for sharing with us such intense and personal memories. You parents had a lot of courage and love to leave their country to get a better life for their family !
PS I loved the pictures

Momo Fali said...

Wow. My first memory, of my three older sisters dressing up as ghosts and waking me up to scare me, just doesn't quite compare to yours...

John-Michael said...

The "Who-You-Are" is someone sure to thrill and delight any parent. And it is clear that your children have a living awareness of their special blessing in having You as their Mom.

I have linked you on my blog so that others can know you too. You can be found as "Kids, Husband, Chaos, Class + Love".

I love You.

suchsimplepleasures said...

what an amazing post!! i wondered about your memories of poland...and your coming here, to america. i'm so glad you told us about it!!
i remember my grandmother relaying her story of emigrating from russia. i always pictured her journey in my head...and for some reason, i always pictured it in a hot air balloon but...that wasn't the case.
thank you for sharing that!!
xoxo

renatamic said...

what a great story - well written and so touching. now i know where you get your great mothering from...your own mother!! to endure such hardships yet still have such a tender heart - really an amazing story!! you should really consider writing a book - your story is inspiring and the way you tell it is even more so!!

April said...

Wow, your first memory is VERY intense. Nothing like mine. LOL

I remember two things from *early* childhood (approx. 18 months)...first is while potty training. My dad set my potty up in the living room (cuz I wouldn't stay in the bathroom) in front of the Giants game on tv and I was eating a Cameo Cookie (I remember that so vividly). My second is very vague...but I have a recollection of getting bathed in the kitchen sink!

GoMommy said...

Wow, even in a passport photo your mother is breath-taking!

Kelly said...

Wow, what a story, thanks for sharing that!

I'm curious what you did with the flour in the pool?? My boys would LOVE that! :)

Kelly said...

Whatever memories your children do not have in photos, I'm sure you will paint for them with your words. I'd love to hear more about your past. Keep talking, chick.

Nissa said...

Wow! That's a pretty amazing memory! I had no idea you and your family had to take such a journey...must be part of what makes you such a strong woman. :)

Don Mills Diva said...

You describe it all so perfectly I feel as though I was there - beautiful! Can't wait to read more...

Nat said...

Wow, this was great and I can't wait to read more! I've often wondered about your past so I'm excited for part 2!!

Smart A$$ Mom said...

what a great story and history to pass on. Mutts like myself can appreciate rich history.

Tara R. said...

I am so glad you are writing these memories down. History, especial our family histories are a gift, and a gift we should be compelled to pass on to future generations... your children and their children will thank you.

Ali said...

what a great, great post.

i often wonder what emily REALLY remembers, or what she thinks she remembers because she's heard us talking about events.

LunaNik said...

Oh yeah, I was wondering when you were going to post your story...

I'm anxious to hear more!

One of my first memories is sitting thisclose to the tv while watching Nickelodeon and eating CoCo Puffs. Weird...

Kimber said...

Wow. I really had no idea of the rich texture of your early childhood.

I agree with the person that commented that love will be a aprt of your children's first memory. That is why I come back here...I see (read) the love that shines through in your family. That is what I try to acheive everyday too.

Your mother is so beautiful but she looks so sad and scared in that photo. It resembles your profile photo a lot except you have an expression of joy in your photo. I know (from what I have read) that your Mom has joy too.

Kim

Rhea said...

What a wonderful memory and emotion. Thank you for sharing. I do think photos are a wonderful way to preserve memories as well.

Amy said...

What a wonderful memory and a great story! Can't wait to hear more about your journey here. The pictures are great.
Since I can't even remember what I ate for breakfast, I can't share my first memory. I could have, before my kids sucked out all my brain cells...

Mary said...

Wow, what a great post! I'm looking forward to Part 2 :)

I've never thought about what my very first memory is.....???

just jamie said...

Okay I'm all choked up now. Truly. What better first memory than the love of your parents?

Phyl said...

ok, were you trying to bring tears to my eyes?

beautifully written from your heart:).

i think its wonderful that you go through the photo albums with the kids...good times.

Miss said...

Oh wow. I cannot wait to read more about this journey of yours. Seriously, post more!! Your writing is beautiful!

Huckdoll said...

Very precious photos and memories. Like the others, I'm looking forward to hearing more. As my girls would say,

"Mowi pees!"

mamatulip said...

This post, and these pictures, take my breath away.

You said you can't get enough of me? I can't get enough of YOU.

Big D said...

remind me to look at your posts at 6 am so I can handle all of the response reading lol but a very cool post about the early ohmommy

Flea said...

How beautiful. So much love on the part of your parents. I'm so glad you're here.

Kathryn said...

What a beautiful post, and a gorgeous memory.
Those pictures are priceless!

Holly said...

I can't even imagine. You have incredible parents. It must have been a terrifying and difficult time, and yet your memories are infused with love and comfort of your parents. Beautiful. I can't wait for the rest of the story!

Eve Grey said...

That was really lovely.

Mr Lady said...

I am SO glad you are finally writing this! ;)

Half-Past Kissin' Time said...

Having grown up in a difficult childhood, I have fewer care-free memories than my own children, who seemingly remember everything since the crib! Mostly, they remember fun things, fearful things, and people who loved them. The order isn't important.

How blessed are your children that they should have security to draw memories from. I'm very, very glad that you are here.

Lisa said...

That post gave me chills......your words were so vivid that I could draw a picture in my mind....

I don't remember what my first memory is. I too hope that my girls will have loving first memories filled full of happy times....

Dziadek said...

Tak bylo.
Dla mnie nie moge zapomniec z tego budynku

- -jak Kasia spadla z tego lozka z 6 feet.
Pamietam krzyk ludzi:dziecko spadlo"
I wielkie nasze szczesci -nic sie nie stalo.

Sue said...

Cool post, thanks for sharing. What an unbelievable beginning you had...

The Diva's Thoughts said...

Great post! My first memories are when I was just 3 -4 years old In Alabama.

Kimmylyn said...

I am not even kidding that I just had this conversation the other day with a friend of what I hope that the boys remember and what it will actually be..

What a beautiful post.. thank you for sharing your story!!

Wendi said...

OHMommy, What a beautiful post! I am so glad you shared it with us. I really think you need to write a book. You are good. I promise to buy your first copy! I am looking forward to Part 2 of this saga!

Kash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kash said...

You are lucky you have a baby picture of yourself :) Wish I could remember that time, but after reading Dziadek's comment, I realize maybe I would have had I not falled on my head!

Nap Warden said...

Wow, first memories...something to think about. Thank you for sharing yours!

Mommy Bits said...

We came to America from Germany when I was 3. I don't remember the journey or having lived overseas but one of my favorite memories of my childhood in America was when my mother would tell be about Germany and our life there. I also have a passport picture of me with my mother that I cherish more than anything.

What a great post.

anglophilefootballfanatic said...

What a wonderful post. I loved it. I think the only communist era pictures I've seen of Poland are from the Papal visit in 78. I know your parents are fortunate to have a daughter who understands the struggle they put her through to get a better life.

This Southern Belle said...

Thank you for sharing--what a wonderful story!

Cindy said...

Like Kellan, I could feel the warmth from your mother's hand.
I want to read more...

P said...

I so enjoyed that. It was a beautiful posting. Your pictures were gorgeous.

secret agent mama said...

I love this post so much. I can't wait to hug you someday. Ko da mi si sestra!

katie said...

thank you! always good to have things put into perspective.

girlymom said...

I cannot imagine the strength of your parents, the courage it must have taken them to do this and yet be responsible for two little girls.

Traci said...

Awesome post!

Rob said...

As an American student of history I have always been furious that WWII started when the fascists took Poland and then when it was all over we left poor Poland in the grip of the Soviets who were every bit as bad and arguably worse than the Nazi’s.

I’m so sorry we let your family down.

Grandy said...

What a wonderful post, OHMommy! Thank you for sharing this insight into your family's adventure.

Your sister's middle child syndrome sounds typical except, by the time my twin & I came around, my parents were too busy to take pictures as we were the last of five and they were off running. ;)

The MomBabe said...

Hey, I have an award for you over at my place....

carrie said...

That brought tears to my eyes! I think it is so important to remember the "real" and not just the photos, as you have. And what an incredible story you have to tell! I hope you're saving it in a permanent spot for your family. Nothing can be a greater gift than the first-hand experiences you're telling them about, their lineage, your history.

I've often wondered about my own memory this way, and if there wasn't a photo of something - would I still remember the same way?

Thank you so much for sharing this, I look forward to reading more. :)

Lulu said...

What a touching post. First memories are hard, because maybe we have initial ones that we eventually forget, but others replace those, and that pattern continues. Does that make sense? Definitely, though, some memories are stronger than others.

Beth said...

What a perfect time to discover your blog, at your beginning. Wonderfully written!

Amber said...

What a powerful post and I can't wait for the follow-up! Especially since I, too am Polish, though it was my grandparents who immigrated to Canada....

HRH said...

What an amazing story.

Stephanie said...

OhMommy, your posts truly inspire me. I've got a lot to blog about next week and maybe you'll see why. I praise you for all the sweet, beautiful things you do with your children. Everything you say touches me, probably because your thoughts are so close to my own. I wonder what my kids first memory will be. Will Punky remember me being a fuddy-duddy and not let her do something or will she instead remember something her Nana or Grandma did with her and take the place of those special memories I had hoped to create for them? Just this past week, that's become a fear of mine. I think, based solely on what you blog, it doesn't matter what their first memory is because they will know beyond anything how much you love them, care for them and how "happy you are to be their mommy." I hope you don't mind, but I think I'm going to steal that from you and tell my kids that. Funny, but even though I thank God every day for them, I'm not sure I've ever said it to them. Even though she's only 2, I want her to know that despite my lack of "doing things" I am the happiest and most blessed mother just because they're mine. Thanks for your posts!

Tootsie Farklepants said...

Just stopping by to wish you a Happy Easter!!

Burgh Baby's Mom said...

Just wanted to wish you a happy Easter and lay a little hint that I'm dying for Part 2!

Maria said...

I wish I could hear more... My first memories are when I was 4 and in preschool. That picture is just priceless.

Shellie said...

Wow! I'll be watching for part 2. I love early memories, and the pictures.

Loukia said...

Wow. That was beautiful. Extremely touching and well written. What a vivid and (considering the circumstances) lovely memory, serioiusly. Because there is nothing more wonderful than the love and comfort that family provides.

 

Blog Designed by: NW Designs

Original Header and Concept by: Judith Shakes