Of all the statues and monuments in New York, the Statue of Liberty is my favorite. Just last week, catching a glimpse of her stopped me in my broker-pavement tracks. That strong-looking, weathered, yet beautiful Lady-gatekeeper of New York reminds me so much of my grandmother, Katherina Meier-Hurst. And today, I can’t seem to get either of them out of my mind.
My grandmother (who is now in an Ohio nursing home, battling dementia) was twenty-nine-years-old when she entered New York Harbor, seeing Lady Liberty for the first time, on November 27, 1948. Much of her life, before that date, is a mystery to me, and mainly because my grandmother never talked about it. At times, that unknown bothers me, but maybe it’s best for me to know her just as she wanted me to know her, as an American.
As an American, she and my grandfather have been the most influential people in my life. They believed in the American Dream, which has been re-planted in me, as my New York Dream. They are the ones who composed that first note to the libretto for my work-ethic, or maybe I should call it my life-ethic(s): “You show a person how much you love them by how much and how hard you work. Words mean nothing, when it comes to love—only your actions…” Today, I know I’m the only one left in my family who continues to hear and play that fugue. I’ve carried it on to my own children, but I decided long ago, to add words of love, endearingly.
Even though she’d never confess, I knew words—certain words were important to my grandmother. Literally, she was a stop-dead-in-your-tracks kind of gorgeous, very much like Lady Liberty. I’m not exaggerating when I type that men and boys were always possessed by my grandmother’s beauty. There’s just something about her. Yet, compliments about her natural-bombshell physique or alluring face washed over her, like nothing, “All das bedeutet nichts!” She was hard and cold to those kinds of words–accolades. But if a man commented, “Mrs. Hurst, I can tell you’re a hard worker—by your hands,” she’d gush with American-pride, warm and sweet, like apple pie. Those were her kind of words and that’s how you attracted the attention of Mrs. Hurst. For as long as I can remember, my grandmother has had the most weathered, beaten-up hands I have ever seen in my life. Her hands were the ugliest thing about her, and yet, they were beautiful to her; they symbolized who she was: A hard-working American.
I think the Statue of Liberty represents hard work and the American Dream to many people, too.
I’ve always wanted to be like my grandmother, but I don’t have her hands. Today, as the Barista at Starbucks was handing me my coffee, he mentioned, “You have beautiful hands.” I laughed and replied, “Thanks, and thanks be to God that you can’t see me feet–they’re beat-up, weathered, scarred, and ugly, to say the least…”
I have no idea what Lady Liberty’s feet look like, but did you know, that her waistline is 35-feet? For other fun facts about her, click here.