A tourist family called me over as I was walking my dog in Riverside Park today.
“Excuse me, could you tell us, is that New Jersey?”
“Yes it is. That’s the Hudson River, and on the other side is New Jersey.”
Therein lies a tale.
My twelfth great-grandfather on my father’s side was also the grandfather of Henry Hudson, the Englishman who explored the river four hundred years ago. My immigrant ancestors followed in the 1680s, first entering this country through the Virginia Colony, traveling southwest through North Carolina, and eventually settling in Tennessee’s Sequatchie Valley in the 1800s, where they mostly stayed put until after the Second World War.
My father and mother moved to Georgia a couple of years before I was born. I moved to New York City, and at the beginning of the new century took up residence with my new family just a hundred yards or so from the river explored by my long-distant kinsman.
My life story has taught me that migration is a natural and essential element of the human condition. One might even say it is what makes us human. Moreover, any efforts to stifle this profound driver of humanity are doomed to failure — although, tragically, not before they cause awful human suffering, as we are witnessing today.
To be continued.