Friday, September 17, 2004

Home Sweet Home

Just got in. Thank God, I don't think I could row for another day.

Being a born and raised New Yorker (and having lived here for 30 years of my life), you'd figure I'd have been in a boat and come into New York Harbor at least once. Nope. At 0455 this morning, we turned into the Narrows at the entrance of the Harbor and I was on the deck, the bow as you squids call it, the front for us reg'ler folks. I'll willingly admit that I got choked up and more than one tear rolled down my cheek.

In 1951, my mother was at the bow of the Queen Elizabeth (the 1st one) when she emigrated to this country from the remnants of Germany after World War Two. She could never tell the story of how she entered the Harbor without getting choked up, her lip quivering when she told the story of when she saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time. A former German Army nurse, she spent the last few months of the war, and six months after, as an American POW. She'd heard the stories about America from the American GIs, and she knew that is where she'd realize her dreams. She did.

In 1949, my dad came to this country from the United Kingdom, a young Brit, a veteran of the war, serving as a paratrooper in the British Army, in Germany. He too had met American soldiers, and he too had dreams. A year later, he was drafted as an infantryman to fight in Korea. He put his dreams on hold for 3 years and came home alive. He built a dream here too.

At 0455 on 17 September 2004, on the niece of the ship that brought my mom from Germany, I crossed under the Varrazano Narrows Bridge into New York Harbor and counted my blessings that I was born in this great land. I was at the bow of the Queen Mary 2 when I saw the Lady in the Harbor from a whole new perspective. Not as the symbol of America beckoning an immigrant with a dream, but welcoming home one of her sons. I realized my dream in this country. I'm comfortable, but it isn't all about the money. It's about what I have been able to do.

I was able to meet my beautiful wife, a Russian Jew whose grandparents on both sides came to America at the turn of the last century. Is that one of the greatest things about this country or what? Where else in the world is something like that possible. A British-German kid can marry a girl who traces her roots back to the land of the Tsars and the children of Israel. She and I both had dreams. Guess what? Yeah, and life is good.

I was able to choose my destiny to some degree. I chose my occupation, chose whom I wanted to marry, and chose who represented me in the government. I had options, more options than anyone in any other nation on earth. Sure, life threw me curves, and I downshifted and hit the throttle when it did. Sometimes I made it, somtimes I crashed, but I had options there too.

I wasn't born under a tyrannical regime, or in a land with a strict religious code, a land that was occupied by an invading army, or a land torn by flood and famine. I was born in a land that gave me options. At every crossroads in my life, I had choices to make, but I made them of my own free will. As I came into New York early this morning and I passed the Lady, I looked north, to the gaping hole in the downtown skyline. It hurt me to see it from this unique angle, just as it does when I'm driving on the BQE, or crossing over from New Jersey. It was a day I thought I'd lose the love of my life. But in the light of the dawn I knew the Lady was just over my shoulder looking over all of those she welcomed to her shores. I knew this country would survive. It's good to be home, darlin'. I'm a lucky sumbitch to be born an American.

Now I have to go sell a body part to get the Mrs.' little monster sprung from the Hound Hotel. Anybody interested in a slightly (cough) used liver?

And I have to say this. The officers and crew of the QM2 is one squared-away unit. Commodore Warwick runs a tight ship. Thank you for the ride, sir.

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