The Zoey Blog: Where I come from... FINAL - COVER UNIVERSE EXPLORERS ORDER

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Where I come from...

There's always been talk in my family, on my father's side, of the general lack of a family tree past a certain point in our history. My Great Grandfather immigrated to Canada when my Grandfather was just a young boy, and that was about all I knew. That was about all anyone knew for the longest of time, until my Uncle Etienne got busy ignoring my Aunt Sally in great long stretches (with her happy and contented approval) and did a lot of hiding behind computer monitors to fill in some gaps. Without going into a lengthy, and super boring story of who I am and where I came from, most recently I stumbled into something that smoothed over some of the rough spots.

This blog has a stat counter that monitors all of the traffic that it sees. I use it to keep better track of who's spending any amount of time on the site, and you'd be surprised by how detailed and accurate it is. I typically just do spot checks on the traffic, and where that traffic came from, both on the web, and geographically. Occasionally I do a keyword analysis, checking in on what words were searched to land someone on Zoey's Blog. I noticed that the term "Brian DeWagner" was being used quite frequently so I scooted over to see the results. That's when I found my Great Grandfather.

I've done internet searches looking for family members before and never, not once, come up with my Great Grandfather, until recently. What I found was his immigration paperwork as it was registered with the US Department of Immigration and more specifically, Ellis Island. I was fairly astonished. My Great Grandfather, Armand, had come to this new world via Ellis Island, meaning my Great Grandfather had been one of the tired, hungry masses that this city so famously embraced. The paperwork also indicated that his final destination was Detroit, MI. We know now that his last stop would be Canada.

The discovery floored me. I don't know why I thought of my Great Grandfather's journey to this continent as any different from the millions of others who travelled in the bellies of crowded steamships across the Atlantic, but I did. I was pretty overwhelmed to come back here to New York and stare out at Lady Liberty with new eyes. It was that landmark that my Great Grandfather first bore witness to when his ship entered New York Harbor. He too stared up at the grand lady and knew that his life would be forever different.

He left Cherbourg, France aboard the steamer, the Saint Paul and arrived in New York City on October 18th, 1920. When he left France his name was Armand De Waegeneer, and when he arrived in America it was Armand DeWagner. He was 36 years old, with a small family in tow, and $40 in his pocket. The information moved me beyond belief. Something changed inside of me, and I couldn't even tell you what it was. Maybe I knew a little better who I was, and how I'd come to be in this place in my life? Maybe it was just the realization that my family didn't just grow out of the ground, that they struggled and begged for a new life and got it right there below that Manhattan skyline.

Strange, because I've always felt a kinship with this place. There have been others too, but this place for certain. Now I know why, or at least, I think I know why. I once stood on a corner across from the Arc de Triumphe in Paris, France, wearing one of my Grandfathers dog tags that my brother had sent with me on the trip, and knew without a shadow of doubt that I was standing in the exact same spot my Grandfather had stood, staring up at that incredible monument. I knew it, and I felt it in every pore. Even June noticed the sudden change in me as I stepped from le Metro and out into the bright French sun, staring up at something that my Grandfather had surely marveled at himself. The strange thing was that I was convinced that it was from that exact corner, from that exact same place where I stood. I was positive of it.

Today, standing on the pier in Red Hook, and staring out at the Statue of Liberty I felt something I haven't felt since that day In Paris. I felt a hole in my soul open up and allow something out...I don't know what, but something powerful. I felt in an instant, again, in that bright sunshine, that maybe, just maybe, my Great Grandfather was there, as perhaps he could have been. It must be an amazing thing to see his Great Grandson standing there in front of that beautiful lady. It must have been something even more moving to know that his Great Great Granddaughter was there playing in that sunshine, on the edge of that place that gave him his new life all those years ago. It must have meant a lot to know that it was all worth it, that $40 in his pocket and a dream of something better gave way to this...a little girl playing in the sunshine of a beautiful New York afternoon without as much as a clue who was watching...her Father, her Great Grandfather, and her Great Great Grandfather for certain. If there are more moving things I have rarely known them.

People ask me all the time why I live the way that I do...why I wander...why I would move to New York, even if it's just for a summer? How do we do it...what do we do such things? I only know this. I have known some sublime moments of personal enlightenment, made connections with places in this universe that I might never have known existed had I not walked away from my home in search of them. It's a great big world, an even bigger universe, and to know why we're here can only be helped along by actually going out and looking for the reasons. I don't see much of my Father's family, but because of this incessant wandering I've stood now in two spots where I've never felt closer to them.

Armand De Zoey Sakura DeWagner. I think you'd be awfully proud of her.

Bri Zo panoramic

It may not have the same effect as it might standing in the shadow if the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline, but read this and try not to choke up.


Blogger Elizabeth said...

Awww....this post made me cry.

July 24, 2010 at 12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had to get a tissue....

July 26, 2010 at 12:00 AM  

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