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Lea Lane Headshot

My Grandmother, My Granddaughter: 127 Years Apart, Closely Connected

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My grandmother's birthday was this week. She was born in 1877 and would have been 136 years old. And when, in her honor, I looked at some family photos, I discovered something that I had not noticed before.

Although the photos below were taken at different ages in their lives, I noticed a real similarity between my grandmother and my granddaughter, both of whom mean so much to me. Yes indeed, I do see more than a hint of my own grandmother in my granddaughter's sweet, smiling face.

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My grandmother, perhaps 17

She was blonde and slight and smart. She came to America alone from Frankfurt at the end of the 19th century. Her long journey crossing the Atlantic ended at Castle Clinton in New York City, before Ellis Island was even there. She deeply loved this country from the moment her eyes teared at the sight of Lady Liberty. As a child, I shared a room with her, and as I was falling asleep, she would tell stories of her childhood in Germany, about how she was set up with someone she didn't want to marry, and how she chose to leave for New York, where a distant relative lived. Her parents followed later, well before the Nazis came to power. She enjoyed reading biographies, loved to waltz, and often spoke in German (and didn't think I understood what she was saying!). She was liberal to the core and could touch her toes at 91. She couldn't cook very well, but cooked anyway. She worked hard at keeping the house clean, missed the big city ("Miami is boring!) and kept a bottle of Ballantine's scotch under her bed, took a "schlook" now and then to stay asleep. She separated for awhile from my grandfather before things like that were common, but later, lived in our small house with him and with my parents and three children, of which I was the oldest. I admired her.

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My granddaughter, at 7


Like my grandmother, my granddaughter is blonde and slight and smart. She was born in Manhattan, where her great-great grandmother lived most of her life and her grandmother (that would be me) was born. She loves sweets and people, asks charming questions, knows all about presidents -- by chance, she has seen the current one up close -- plays piano, does her homework, enjoys swimming and tennis and adores her parents and her little sister.

My granddaughter is such a New York girl that when she was 4 and I pointed on the bottom of the globe to Antarctica, where I would be traveling, she said without a second thought, "Grandma, that's way downtown."

I have a feeling that she, too, will travel "way downtown." Not just across the ocean like her great-great grandmother, or to faraway places like her grandmother, but across the sky, beyond our dreams.

She lives in a city that knows the consequences of terrorism, and like her great-great grandmother, she has seen the consequences of hatred.

My wish for my granddaughter, the spirit of my grandmother deep within her, is that she -- and her great-great grandchildren living 127 years from now -- may also travel the world and live in peace.