This past weekend, I went to my first family reunion.
I jetted off to New York City, and I met relatives from Toronto, Las Vegas, Florida, Arizona, and New York, of course. This month marks 100 years since the relative that connected all of us came to America.
During the weekend, we got to know each other at get-togethers and went on a walking tour of the Lower East Side of New York, the area where our family lived when we first arrived in the country.
It was intriguing to think about. A century ago, our relatives lived in poor conditions. They were crammed together in small tenement apartments with multiple families. People were lucky if there was a bathroom down the hall. (Apparently, the city of New York considered it permissible if there was one toilet for every 20 people, according to our tour guide.)
In short, the conditions were appalling in the Lower East Side tenements of 1913.
One hundred years later, our family lives all over the world. We have jobs and homes that our ancestors only dreamed of in the poor, workaday tenement neighborhoods. The family is more established.
I’m sure our relatives would have been pleased to know that instead of living in tenements, we came back to tour them. Instead of occupying cramped, unsanitary quarters, we were disgusted to hear about them.
We’ve come a long way.
Here’s to our relatives who left Eastern Europe so that a century later, we could gather together, eat desserts and drink wine, and look back on our family history since 1913.