On Jan. 11th, 1911, (1/1/11) a massive steamship, named "Friedrich der Grosse" (for Frederick the Great, a one-time Prussian ruler) pulled into New York Bay. My dad's father, Josef Gärtz, was on that ship, peering out at the Statue of Liberty, greeting him and the other hopeful and exhausted boat-load of immigrants. It was the beginning of a life entirely different from the lives of the family and friends he left behind.
On Christmas Eve 1910, my grandfather, Josef Gärtz, set off on what would become a harrowing journey toward America. His burning dream of a far-off land and the fiery drive he needed to get there, turned out to be the best Christmas gift he ever could have imagined for his future bride and their children and grandchildren. It was a gift that would keep on giving for decades to come.
Tis the season to spread the magic of Christmas to our children–and a letter from Santa can be just the ticket, especially when the letter comes directly to their door, in a real envelope, from a human being, not via email or text. But that letter can do so much more than promise goodies. It has the power to instill empathy early on.
On Veterans Day, I always think of my beautiful, young, handsome Uncle Frank Ebner, whom I never met in person, yet I feel I know intimately. Why? Because I have nearly 300 letters written to and from him from January 1943 to the end of September 1945. Then the letters stopped coming home.
Joan Baez was an iconic singer for those of us who came of age in the 1960s. I bought six tickets in February of this year for her "Fare Thee Well Tour," which came to Chicago on Friday, October 5th. I was not prepared for the surprise that awaited me.