July 20, 2007
One Giant Leap
My Chinese Desk from the store. Now a showpiece in our home, it reminds me of our time in Hawaii and the hopes and dreams that one can not only have but realize if you grab ahold of the opportunities that come your way...
It comes every year, this date that defined my Father and certainly defined our family. As I wrote last year in the post One Small Step For Man
, this event, Man's landing on the moon was a moment that shaped my personal history enormously. It shaped every one of our lives to the point where I dont think there is a single thing, or situation that has not benefited from what we learned as a species from that venture. I am proud to have been connected to it.
I have thought a lot about that recently. I realized at this time last year, as my Mother lay dying and I knew that my life was going to change and be redefined with her passing, that it is this drive that both she and my father had to pursue their dreams that has fueled the drive that I have within myself. And it goes further back than that, to their parents and theirs before them.
I was accustomed to thinking of my mothers family in this light. I know that my mother's parents came from what is euphemistically called "Pioneer" Stock. My Maternal great grandparents sharecropped in West Texas. The land dried up and their older sons went out west to work. The elder landed in California, got work with the Union Pacific and settled permanently. The younger of these two, 15 or 16 years old as I understand,took his newly widowed mother and younger brothers and sister and went to Phoenix. I dont know the whole story maybe I will never know now, but he stayed, settled into a career turning a wrench, married well, had a family, owned a successful business and a home, became a lay preacher and respected member of the community. All of his children completed high school, a grand achievement for a man who had only had formal schooling to the third grade. His story is a picture of the American Ideal that if you work hard and grab onto opportunity when it comes you will make something of yourself.I have written quite a bit on my Mother
,Her defining moment being those days of uncertainty "should I stay?... I love this place, but what will it be like when the war here is over... People are packing, and telling me to get out..." The soldiers from the Revolutionary Army coming onto her little farm in Mahagua, in central Cuba, telling them to not worry that they wanted the teachers to stay, but if they couldn't to tell them, and they would be escorted out. Which was the right option. So the next day they pulled out with an armed escort, Castro's forces blew up the roads and bridges so that there would be no turning back as he marched to Havana. She had the last seat on the last Pan Am Commercial American flight to leave Marti Airport. As she flew over the Caribbean for the short flight to Miami, she wept for the loss of the place and the work that so defined her as a person. I can relate to that...
Pastel painting of the canal and forest behind the home my mother lived in while living in Cuba. Taken from a slide she shot herself while there and painted by her cousin Phillip Stack 1962. We has it restored and reframed in mango wood while in Hawaii. It hangs in out living room above the chinese desk as a tribute to dreams and the taking of risks large and small
For the next 35 years she took risks, made choices some good some not so good, but she didnt play it safe all of the time. Even though I, as her child, paid some of the price for those risks that didnt turn out well, I look back with admiration at some of the things she managed to accomplish in her life.
My Father"s grandmother left a comfortable life in England, a widow with three small children, to pursue an amazing ambition for the times, to work for the legendary Florenz Zeigfeld, whom she had met in London. Her husband had died at sea, a Captain in the British Navy, and she literally slipped out of town and landed in New York where she worked first as a stand in, then as a Chorus Girl in Zeigfelds productions. Her Stage career didnt last long for she met and married a business man and moved to California. He didnt last long either...(I think he was older as was the Captain.)But it wasnt long before she married again this time to a man 25 years her junior. By then her children had grown and I think the scandal was this man being nearly as young as they were... Such is love. Great Grandmother Georgieanne was a risk taker...
So was her son, who won the heart of a visiting family friend, and they ran away and were married. We know very little about my father's mother, other than she was a Spanish national (maybe Portuguese, the State Dept was not able to assertain this when my father was trying to get his secret clearence). She for reasons unknown to us, perhaps to make a family visit,or perhaps to escape what must have been a difficult marriage, went back to Spain in the summer of 1933. She disembarked at Barcelona, boarded a train, and was never heard from again. My father's family who didnt like her forbade discussing her. So ther are many questions and few answers
My Fathers life was a series of risky leaps into the unknown...He ran away from home at 14, and lived in Salt Lake City for nearly a year on his own. He was brought back to San Francisco, and was living with his aunt and uncle,the parents of my Aunt Jean, who I wrote about here
his father had been unable to care for him, and died from injuries suffered in a bar fight on the San Francisco waterfron where he worked as a long shoreman. My Father was truly an orphan at 10. Three marriages to three very different women,he didnt have the family he longed for until he was 36 and even then he wasnt able to enjoy a home life, because he was too caught up in the pushing and shoving it took to make his way up a career ladder that didnt reward non conformists too often.Once he "made it" he gave up on living once his dream was realized... not understanding that its the journey that is most important. Its not arrival at the destination so much but the way we handle the bumps on the road to getting there.
Neil Armstrong said as he stepped on the lunar surface, "One small step for a man, One giant leap for mankind"...He was right. But it wasnt that moment that was the leap. It was the millions of man hours and the creative genious that got him there that was the Leap. I know in my own life that the giant Leaps that I have made only came because those that went before me were "leapers" too. Today as we sit before our PC's, sipping coffee zapped in a microwave,reaching for the cel phone,or the dvd to put into the player, let us thank those that created the ideas that make our life what it is, both in personal developement and our 21st century culture. And let us not be afraid to "leap" ourselves, creating new visions to facilitate the "leaps" for tomorrows children...
the original dream, Azure Seas Jewelry 114 Haili st. Hilo Big Island of Hawaii, my greatest leap into the unknown
Labels: Azure Seas Jewelry, Family History, Hawaii, Requested Past Posts