Family Stories – 1

Just recently I found out how my great grandparents met.  They met on the boat on the way from Ireland to Ellis Island.  They were from different parts of Ireland and did not know each other before.  But they met and fell in love on the ship.  When they got to New York they had to go their separate ways, I think they had friends in the city who they were staying with.  They wanted to get married right away but they couldn’t; it would be too scandalous.  So once they were settled in the city, they had to pretend like they just met and they “courted” each other until it was appropriate for them to marry.

They got married in St. Peter’s Church on Barclay St in downtown Manhattan.  St. Peter’s was the first Catholic church in the New York City.  My dad used to work on the same street as that church, and I worked right across the street from that church.  I would walk past it all the time and think nothing of it.  Because honestly, the church isn’t all that nice from the outside.  It’s a small grey Greek-looking building.  It looks nothing like a church, actually:

st peter's

After I learned that my great-grandparents were married here, I walked into the church one day on my lunch break.  I was surprised when I walked in, because the inside of this church is gorgeous.  I sat on a pew in the back for a while just thinking.  I’ve never seen pictures of my great grandparents, but somehow I could picture them getting married there.  I wonder what kind of dress my great-grandmother wore.  There probably weren’t many people at the wedding, since they were both immigrants with no other family members here.  I’m not really religious anymore, but I said a little prayer to my past relatives.  Just letting them know that their people are doing ok, that we’re living in the good life because of them.

One of my favorite things about living in the city is knowing that my family has a history here.  In a way it makes me feel stronger.  Maybe this is common for people from other areas or from small towns; but in a city that is constantly changing with a population that is constantly shifting, it is nice to feel grounded and to have roots in a place, and to feel like you belong.  I know I’m lucky to have that.

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