We wanted two kids, but one at a time. It would be so much easier with one. We can do this, we said. But just like that, we didn’t have to.

// Pol Skas

It all started with my grandfather, Sidney Goldstein, and his Korean War memoir. I found it several years ago while helping clean out my grandparents’ garage. I was 26 when I read it for the first time, and he was 27 when he wrote the letters his memoir was based on.

I knew he’d written a book, but I didn’t expected to be that interested in it. It was about a war I knew little about, and people around my age generally have another 20 or 30 years to go until they develop an interest in their family history.


Photo by Rachel Pasch, https://www.flickr.com/photos/rachelpasch/4273208320

I never thought I’d change my opinion about the spilling piles of paper, magazines, and other random things my mom kept all around the house. They were annoying; they made the house look messy and if anyone tried to throw something out, my mom would get mad.

Mostly, I didn’t understand the appeal of holding on to ephemera. Ephemera is supposed to be transitory; it’s there and then it’s not. Old advertising, museum brochures, movie tickets, scribbled notes, fortune cookie messages. Ephemera: a polite word for junk.

But when your mom passes away, your perspective shifts. Your sense of normal…

Growing up, summer vacations meant hiking in Mammoth Mountain. After the first couple consecutive years, I was ready to go somewhere else. We used to go other places—Palm Springs, Big Bear, San Francisco, Arizona, Utah. We even went all the way to Disney World when I was seven. So I began looking through the AAA book for some new ideas. Maybe my parents had forgotten what else was out there.

They hadn’t. I’d point out a place and my dad would say, “What are we going to do there?”

“We could do anything! What do we do in Mammoth that’s…

When I first read my grandfather’s collection of Korean War letters (aka his Korean War memoir), I was surprised they were so lovey-dovey. Don’t get me wrong, my grandparents were loving, but by the time I came on the scene they didn’t really seem that in to nicknames and constant professions of love. Korean War-era Sidney Goldstein, on the other hand, was all about nicknames (he called her Beautiful, she called him Budgie Doodle), love and kisses.

Of course, it made sense. My grandparents had only been married three years when my grandfather left for Korea, so they were still…

My mom had just gotten home from a trip when she heard the phone ring. She’d been in Los Angeles meeting my dad’s family for the first time, and it was my dad on the phone checking in to make sure she got home safe. In addition, he was also wondering if maybe she’d be interested in marrying him.

She was, actually. Even though he was asking her over the phone mere hours after they’d been in each other’s physical presence. Even though she didn’t get a bended-knee proposal and couldn’t excitedly hug him, she still wanted to marry him.

In my head, I’ve always placed my family into one category and my ancestors in another. My family members are my parents, my brother, my aunts and uncles, first cousins and grandparents. They’re the people I grew up with, the people I know too well, the ones who inspire the deepest and longest eye rolls.

My ancestors are the people I want to learn more about. They’re a mystery I want to solve, their lives influencing my own in ways I’ve only recently begun to discover. …

Family Resemblance

Writer/storyteller. Subscribe (https://tinyurl.com/vrxbwa7) to my email newsletter about the similarities that run in famous and not-so-famous families.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store