I recently started clearing out my draft folder. Every blogger has a couple (if not dozens or maybe even hundreds) of drafts started with enthusiasm that now linger in the dark. I had 69. I’ve deleted many of them, but this one stuck out. It was 90% finished and I’ve no idea why I didn’t polish and post it. I’ve revised it and include a couple of links relevant to a point that I make.
In May 2016 I visited my Mom in Illinois. She gave me this miniature Bible that belonged to her nephew, an older cousin of mine, that she found when going through some old papers.
The Little Bible was presented to my cousin in April 1956 at Captieux, France. It was published by David C. Cook Publishing Co., then out of Elgin, Illinois.
Captieux was, at the time, home to a U.S. Army base. My Uncle Mike was stationed there with his wife, Leni, my Aunt or Tante, as I called her. (She was my Mother’s older sister.) Their son, my cousin, was a young boy who apparently attended at least one Sunday School session. My Mother, Ingrid, was a teenage girl in 1956 and lived in France with them for a year.
Mom doesn’t remember how this Bible ended up in her possession, but knowing my passion for books, she thought I’d like to have it.
Uncle Mike was from Ecuador. He joined the U.S. Army in the hope of attaining U.S. citizenship, which he eventually achieved. In Ecuador, he had been a driver for a general who encouraged him to enlist. Uncle Mike enjoyed his work in the Army (demolitions) and ended up serving as a lifer. Prior to France, he was stationed in Germany where he met and married my Tante Leni. Both my Tante and my Mom are Germans who also eventually became U.S. citizens, along with a brother. Two older brothers died in WWII and one sister remained in Germany.
I point out their nationalities because too often people make the assumption that U.S. military families are composed of American citizens. That assumption was no truer back then than it is now.
People from other nations still join the U.S. Armed Forces in the hope of becoming U.S. citizens, but it doesn’t always work out. And the current administration is making it even harder for those who want to make the effort. [Examples here and here.]
At a time when those hoping to immigrate to the U.S. are facing increased restrictions and outright hostility, the story of this miniature book made me reflect on my own family’s story of immigration.
Tucked into The Little Bible was this photo of a woman. We don’t know who she is. Perhaps she’s my Uncle’s Mother back in Ecuador? She never visited the States, so we never met her, and Uncle Mike only went back to Ecuador once, when he was in his 70s.
This unknown woman is symbolic for me. She represents the family connections and stories that are inevitably lost when people immigrate. Gain and loss, loss and gain.
On the paternal side of my family, my great grandparents came to the U.S. from Poland in the early 20th century. My Dad joined the Air Force in the late 1950s. After a stint in North Africa, he was sent to Europe where he was in charge of a small communications outpost in Damme, Germany and where he met a young woman named Ingrid. My parents married in Damme and my older sister was born in Germany.
I’m grateful for the risks my elders and ancestors took to come here and proud of their service. Their journeys weren’t easy, but at least they were possible.