Saturday, July 20, 2019

July 20, 1969


Highway 1 in all its winding beauty
In July 1969 my parents and my aunt and uncle flew to California from New Jersey for the first time. My parents were going to explore the possibility of moving there after my twin brother and I graduated from high school in 1970. They flew from Newark to San Francisco where they spent their first night. They rented a car and drove Highway 1 south, that magnificent winding highway for 450 miles. When I think about it now, I am really blown away that they actually did that. They were all from the city streets and parkways of New Jersey This is quite a slow-going wild highway. But they did, and they fell in love with the beauty that is California. They chose to make it our future home.
Earth as seen from the moon
While they were there in California, my maternal grandmother came to stay with my siblings and me. She was 77 years old, an immigrant from Poland/Germany who had come to this country and settled in Newark, New Jersey in 1921. She was an avid reader of the news, subscribed to IF Stone Weekly, and was one of the smartest most insightful people I've ever had the pleasure to know and love. She was also a seamstress who hand-stitched wedding dresses (I always remember the needles and threads in the curtains of her kitchen window) and a baker who could make the most delicious plum kuchen. We had a lovely time together, the week that my parents were exploring California.
That moment
On Sunday, July 20th we turned the TV on to watch an event together. I sat with my grandmother and watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. We saw it; we felt it; we were amazed by it. It was a moment that lifted our hearts more miles than we knew possible. We were awestruck. It was a new future before us. My grandmother who had come from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, who had lost almost her entire family to Auschwitz, who had traveled farther than she probably ever imagined possible had just watched a man walk on the moon. I was 17 years old and suddenly had California and dreams as big as the moon in my life. The future possibilities seemed without limit.

It's hard to fully grasp that a half century has passed since that day. A half a century. I'm older than I ever thought I'd be back then. I have often wondered what Bob Dylan meant when he sang, I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now. In some ways now I know.

PS- all photos borrowed from the internet, one from Travel California and two from NASA. 

25 comments:

  1. Beautiful post, on so man levels. I'd love to see a picture of this grandmother.

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    1. Colette-- Thank you for your kind words. I have a few photos of her, I may post them soon.

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  2. What a great moment in time for your family, for your life, and for "mankind."

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  3. Connections. Everything we do has connections. Those connections make more sense out of what we experience. Watching the moon landing with your Grandma added much to what you knew about your Grandma.

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    1. Red-- I like thinking about everything we do having connections. It's true in so many ways.

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  4. I love that image of Highway 1. Can see why it captivated your parents.
    That moon landing did just blow all our minds didn't it? I remember running outside to look up at the same moon our men were walking on. It was almost impossible to grasp.

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    1. Patti-- I loved finding that image online. I've driven that highway, but never had that grand perspective. What a moment it was to see a man on the moon!

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  5. I'm older than I ever thought I'd be, too. I suspect most of us feel that way, no matter our age!

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    1. Steve-- I remember all the excitement I felt about the future. Time really flies, and we really do get old. On Roger's birthday in August, he will be age my grandmother was when we watched the landing. Wow!

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  6. All I remember of the moon landing is that I repeatedly fell asleep as it was the middle of the night in Germany and my parents had to wake us up to make sure we would not miss it.
    I just listened to a podcast about Wernher von Braun the nazi engineer who was recruited by the US straight after he was captured to work for what would eventually become NASA. Controversial and quite upsetting now that you are writing about your grandmother.
    All these twists and fates.

    That cake is a classic, I bake one every autumn when the small plums are abundant here. We call it Pflaumenstreuselkuchen or Zwetschenstreuselkuchen depending on where in Germany you are. (Go on Robin, try saying this now.)

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    1. Sabine-- I love that your parents woke you to watch, and I love that it was something that the whole world was watching. I had forgotten about Wernher von Braun, oy such a bummer. I'm trying to say Zwetschenstreuselkuchen. Hah! Now that's quite a word. LOL!

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  7. We also used to live in NJ, Robin, so it was exciting to read about how your family flew to CA, drove on Hw1 a and then decided to relocate. I too can remember watching the moon landing with my family. Hard to believe it was really 50 years ago.

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    1. Beatrice-- It really is hard to believe that a half century has passed since then. I remember my NJ days quite fondly!

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  8. What made your parents decide to move to California, to even consider exploring the question? I agree, it is a bold thing indeed.

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    1. 37paddington-- My father had been self-employed all of his adult life until 1967. He was in the wholesale produce business, had a truck, picked up produce on the docks and sold it to his small grocery store customers in Newark, NJ. That all changed with the advent of large supermarkets and the Newark riots. He found a new job, but it wasn't all that satisfying for him. My twin brother and I were planning on going to college, so my parents considered moving to California, where we could establish residency and afford to go to school. My mother's brother had been living in California since 1950s, so she had wonderful family who wanted us to move there. So, we uprooted everything and left after my brother and I graduated from high school. My sister had one more year of high school to complete, which she did in our new home state. It was hard move for her, doing her senior year with strangers, but she made lovely friends and stayed in southern California since then. My parents made their lives over and were quite happy. We all stayed in California, except my older brother who never moved west. He visits often but lives in Virginia.

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  9. Oh I'm disappointed by your footnote. I thought you took that moon picture!

    And who would ever have thought that any of us would be here today.

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    1. Catalyst-- You made me laugh out loud. Thank you for that.

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  10. July 1969. I was living the internation hippie life on the island of Majorca when the moon landing happened. The locals all congratulated us and shook our hands as if we had made that great leap our very selves. We in our hashish daze smiled and said thank you. I remember thinking Wow...what could possibly be next? And then went on celebrating our friends birthday which was on the same day. In June 1970 I first met Jeff in SF. On our 2nd day together he and his good buddy Bruno drove me and my sister in a borrowed convertible on a mescaline fueled trip down Hwy 1 to Carmel complete with a tour of Pebble Beach for the day. That was the beginning of my love affair with California. I fall in love with places. It might be a flaw. Who knows. I flew back to England collected my one suitcase of belongings, said my farewells and by middle of July 1970 I had moved California! I was a vagabond so it was quite easy. Moving an entire family is more daunting. Your parents were brave and adventurous it seems. My parents moved us to places they fell in love with also. We are fortunate to have had such parents.

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    1. jsk-- I love this story so much. You and I have a wonderful love story with our adopted state of California. And the other very cool thing is that our dear Roger was here all along!

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    2. "California I'm comin' home." There is a lure for many to come here. I was born and raised here, and have never really considered living anywhere else. I spend my high school years in Carmel, bombing down Hwy 1 in various junk cars, high on pot, sitting in the hot tubs at Esalen late at night, and sleeping high atop Partington Ridge where a friend lived. Hippie girl all the way.

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  11. It is difficult to believe that 50 years have gone by. And I can't imagine what your grandmother must have thought, born in 1921. See had seen a lot in her lifetime, both the achievements and the horrors of mankind. It was a moment that riveted the entire planet. And you were on the cusp of some big changes in your life. A heady time, for sure. Onward and upward, yes?

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    1. Tara-- My grandmother was born in 1892. She came to America in 1921. I found a photo online of the ship she and my grandfather their son (my uncle) came across the Atlantic on. It's so amazing to think of the journey they made. I will always be grateful for the time I got to spend with her. Yes, 1969 was the year of the moon landing, Woodstock, and my senior year in high school beginning. Then... California. What a time!

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  12. Remember watch on TV as well from a hotel in Ireland. That was the last holiday with my parents, like you I was 17 and dad had asked me to drive him so he could see the countryside

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    1. Billy-- How lovely it is to remember watching it on a TV in Ireland. It's great to look back on the moment.

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