I moved to Brooklyn!!!
This is what it looks likes to go to Brooklyn:
I also just read The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald. Winfred Georg, but he went by Max. It’s the story of four disconnected emigrants from Germany post-WWII. It’s beautifully written and there are photographs throughout, which give it the feel of a family album. A professor from UCLA recommended it to me after reading a story of mine called It’s Quiet Inside, And That’s Where We Are. Here’s an excerpt:
The garage door was stuck again. One of the neighbors had been tinkering with it, trying to fix it so we could get my grandfather’s car out. It hadn’t been working for months, but what did it matter, my grandfather couldn’t drive. He only stopped driving six months earlier, though—before then he would squint at the speedometer or ask a passenger to read his speed to him and he missed his exit more often than he found it. The car was in fine condition, though, for not having been driven in months. We got out on the Autobahn. No nonsense. Mercedes and Audis zoomed past; the countryside was dotted with castles. We drove to Belgium to attend the christening of my cousin’s baby girl, whom I’d never met. When we got there, I recognized my cousins, three sisters, and their husbands, but no one else. Not even my uncle. He was my aunt’s husband and I hadn’t seen him in years—he was thinner than I remembered and looked as if he had used a fake tanning spray. His new girlfriend was there, too. In the pews, my mom and I sat apart—my cousins were all with their families and friends whom we did not know. It was nothing intentional, not a mark of unwanted distinction, to be alone in our pew, but I wondered if my mom felt separate, like I did.
After the ceremony there was more mingling, meeting, shaking hands and nodding. My cousins gave me gripping hugs that said “it’s been so long” and “I’ve missed you” but also “I don’t really know you at all.” We drove to my cousin’s new house for the reception and my eldest cousin’s daughter, a chubby little nine year old, started following me around. I tried to talk to her, about books, because we both liked to read (though in different languages) and horses, which we both rode. It was hard but she was learning English in school already and translated for me the words I didn’t know, which was all of them.
After the guests had left, and it was just my cousins—sisters—and their husbands and children and my mom and me, we sat on the couches in the living room and drank wine. Everyone asked my mom about my dad and brother, how everything was at home; they asked me how school was, what I wanted to do afterwards, when I’d “grow up.” We all sat around the room, all people related by some part of their DNA. Though I couldn’t understand much, I felt at ease. They were people I didn’t know so well, maybe, but they were my people and I was theirs. There is a certain comfort of family, even family you don’t know or can’t understand, a reclining of the spirit, where no tension can exist, however many language barriers there may be, where the part of every one that is the same can speak.
I was thinking of this memory, only about a year old, when I came across the photos my mom had taken with my grandfather’s camera. He hadn’t come with us, already infirm, though none of us, I suppose, knew what would come. The newly christened baby, now almost two years old, looked so healthy and bright. I turn the page of the photo album and see my grandfather, sitting with neighbors around the table, all dressed in white—it was a funeral for an old woman from the neighborhood. She had left very specific arrangements for her funeral—what kinds of flowers there should be, what they should eat and listen to, and that they should all wear white. It looked like a summer’s day.