Sunday, May 27, 2012


Until February, our three sons, ages 31, 28 and 22, had blessed us with two…granddogs: Daisy, a sweet-natured, affectionate, red-nosed pit bull, and Sweet Pea, a somewhat aloof, reluctantly affectionate, but otherwise lovable beagle. Of course we dreamed of being real grandparents, like so many of our boomer friends. You can imagine our joy when our oldest son, Devin, and his wife, Sarah, announced last summer that they were expecting.
Never mind that they lived in Boston, about as far away from our California home as possible without leaving the country.  Digital photos and Skype would keep us close until we could visit. In September we signed up for a May trip to New York with friends and added on an extra five days in Boston to personally meet who would by then be our three-month-old granddaughter.
Saskia Fredricksen Jones was born on February 13th, 2012, a healthy, serene, placid baby girl. My son created a Picasa album almost immediately, and we Skyped twice in the first couple of months.  But nothing, other than the birth of our own children, prepared us for the outpouring of love we would experience when we arrived in Boston on May 14th.
For five full days we were with Saskia every moment except when we returned to our B & B to sleep. Everywhere we went we rode on either side of her in the back seat so we could gaze into her expressive blue eyes, laugh when she flashed a sudden smile, talk to her in response to her wordless chatter, feel the pressure of her tiny hands wrapped around our fingers, wonder at her calm beauty when she slowly fell asleep, her dark lashes resting on her rosy cheeks.
We took her to her first Red Sox game at Fenway Park; we visited Lexington and Concord, her first history lesson, and the Jack Kerouac Memorial in Lowell, her first American Literature lesson; we strolled through scenic parks on perfect spring days under new green foliage and among vibrant wildflowers.  We fell gloriously, deeply in love.  Leaving was difficult, but we’ve circled the calendar…Saskia will be here on July 7th! In the meantime, wonderful photos and great memories will nourish us. Grandchildren…everything we heard it would be…and more.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Standing in the Reception Room in the big brick building on Ellis Island where millions of immigrants first arrived in America, it was easy to visualize the wooden benches lined with hopeful people of every age and nationality, and to hear the din of a dozen languages echoing off the plaster walls and tile ceiling. In 1926, my mother, then six years old, her mother and three siblings were among those hopefuls.
After a long trip in steerage, they arrived from Scotland on the USS California to join my grandfather who had come to the states in 1923 to work on the railroad in Philadelphia until he sent enough money home for his family to follow him. My grandmother, already thirty-seven and desperately seasick for the entire trip, bore two more children and lived to be one-hundred-and-four.
My wife and I visited Liberty Island and Ellis Island on a recent trip to New York to see some Broadway shows and visit with family.  The Big Apple was kind to us, especially gracing us with spectacular spring weather which led to lazy strolls in Central Park under full sunshine and an amazing canopy of new green leaves. And, biggest miracle of all, no humidity!
From New York we traveled to Boston to visit our son and daughter-in-law, and our three-month-old granddaughter, Saskia, our first grandchild. For a full five days we were enchanted by her beauty and her emerging personality. I think I learned more about love from watching her and interacting with her in those five days than I’ll ever be able to teach her.
I looked for traces of her great grandmother and her great great grandmother, who made that perilous and courageous journey eighty-six years ago, and I think I saw them in Saskia’s eyes, those windows to the soul that told me this baby, who neither of them will ever see, was worthy of their sacrifice. God bless America. God bless Saskia and her wonderful parents, Devin and Sarah. God bless us all.