Migration Stories


On Thursday night after work, I took a cab from Newton, Massachusetts to Wellesley, Massachusetts on a peculiar journey to the past.

I got on the yellow taxi that picked me up from the office and it already felt like a travel in time. The old driver looked up the address I gave him on a PAPER BOOK with an index of all the streets of the city. I had a vintage shock. I had to pay by credit card and he pulled out an old manual machine that could have been exposed in a museum. Fabulous.

I got dropped off at number 69 in the middle of a nowhere suburb and rang the bell to meet people I had never seen in my life. βκ and his wife μκ opened the door and welcomed me as a dear old friend.

They are an old couple in their 80s. βκ was born in Freiburg, Germany. My grandfather spent a summer with his family in Freiburg in 1938 as part of a cultural exchange, a few months after the Anschluß (the annexation of Austria by Hitler.) My grandfather witnessed the rise of nazism and the mandatory enrollment of all the young people in the Hitlerian Youths. βκ was 6 at the time. He was the youngest of 7 children. His 3 brothers were killed during the war. After the capitulation of Germany, the country was left in total chaos and there were no perspectives of future. All the civilians were left with the profound fear that something would soon break out again, so all who had a chance to migrate left the country.

βκ had an Uncle of America who had migrated in the 20s and sponsored the rest of the family to move to the New World. βκ was the last one to make the trip, in January 1950, reuniting with his parents and 3 sisters. His wife was born in New York from German parents, but she gave up speaking German as a kid because she was bullied in school due to the WW2 events. It was shameful to be German at this period.

My grandfather, who is a loyal friend and pen pal beyond understanding, has remained in touch with βκ and his family for 76 years, but they never saw each other again.

I paid a visit to these lovely people as a tribute to this life-time friendship and to carry on with it, now that my 92 year-old grandfather will probably never make it to the US.

We exchanged for hours about the past, the present and the future of Europe and the US. They told me how privileged they were to have been a part of the economical blossom of the 50s, and what a golden era it was.

I LOVE migration stories. I always bombard my American friends with questions to know about their ethnic background (the mix of influences running in their blood fascinates me) and to know in what circumstances their ancestors decided to embrace a new life. I am not sure where my curiosity comes from. Maybe because I am feeling exactly there right now, as the kids of the 19th century jumping on a boat to America simply in search of something better. Not that there is a potato famine, a dictatorship or religious pogroms where I live, and I am well aware of that. But it may be the case again. Everyone in Europe is feeling the ghosts of the 30s rising back from their graves.

Why does Human Kind run in a circle?

I will always be optimistic for the future though, because I am surrounded with kick-ass people.

This Suburban Life

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Tuesday was my last NYC day of work and my last night with the family ( α + α²). We had lots of laughter because I tried to explain them the very French concept of “motocrotte” which I translated “poop bike” and we all peed ourselves. We said it would be α‘s ideal job when we are all grown ups. α² will be an earth pulse scientist. 

I slept 4 hours and took the Amtrak train to Boston, Massachusetts where the HQ of my company is. Being on the Amtrak is by far one of my favorite things in life, across all the categories of cool stuff to do. It is my first time in New England. The office is super remote in the wooded suburb. I am meeting people I have been virtually working with for the last 2 years without even guessing a sense of what they look like beyond Skype. I have the same running gag when I meet each of them: “Oh my God! You have legs!”

The spirit of New England is very similar to Canada, for its proximity with nature, its general peacefulness and the colonial style wooden houses. It feels that nothing bad can happen here.

I stay at a posh hotel of the centre of Boston with ridiculous roof terrace, room balcony and 2 queen size beds. Fuck yeah!  I enjoy this occasional luxury like a kid, because I live it like a happy accident and I make the most of it while it passes by.

At the end of my first work day, I didn’t know how to find my way back to the town centre and I got pissed at this anti public transportation culture. I was told about a bus running from right outside the office but I could never find a bus stop (of course I couldn’t. I saw the “bus stop” the day after and it was a sign on an electric pillar). So I walked to the train station with my luggage along the main road, with lots of traffic and huge vehicles, and I kept reminding myself to stop getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. It is a usual thing along my trips and it challenges my travel creativity.

As I was walking, I really started getting a sense of this so typical American suburban life flair, the one that α tried to explain me years ago and that makes her love “Edward Scissorhands” that much.  What would my perspectives on life be if this was my regular journey to work? I get my life appetite and my violent ups and downs from the turmoil of the metropolis. The metropolis makes me truly happy, but this suburban life equally fascinates me. A Wisteria Lane taste. Who knows what extraordinary and/or dramatic life paths evolve behind the closed doors of the pastel colonial houses?

When I got at the station after my meditative walk, its bucolic style transported me into a different era where I was making home-made jams and wearing vintage-to-be dresses which would then be the latest design. An adorable trolley soon arrived. We went through forests, passed lakes. It pacified my soul from all the recent NYC bouncing and electric shocks.

I’m now sitting in the middle of the night in front of my bay window, facing Boston lit towers. I love too much the idea of writing chronicles alone in hotel rooms. That could become a life style. Even a life goal.

Tomorrow night I’m taking the train back to my New York for an ultimate weekend.

I am aiming to wake up in 5 hours to watch the sunrise from the roof terrace and do the mermaid in the pool. Will I make it?