The house in Colorado where 4 generations of my mother’s family lived. Digitally edited by Randa Dubnick
Today marks the end of an era for my family. My great aunt and her children and grandchildren are moving from Denver to Pikesville, Maryland. My great aunt is 97 years old, and though she’s traveled, this is her first time residing outside of Colorado. I’m very happy to have them closer by, and I still have many cousins (probably some I don’t even know about) in Colorado, but my great aunt’s relocation represents the complete disappearance of a fantasy that I have had of Colorado as my home state—of being from and perhaps someday returning to Colorado, where three generations of my family (including me and my brother) were born, where several branches of that family resided when they first came to the United States from Eastern Europe, and where the Brooklynites in the family (on my father’s side and my maternal grandfather’s side) eventually succumbed, at least for a time, to a Coloradan existence.
I didn’t actually live in Colorado for very long; we moved to Emporia, Kansas, when I was about four years old, and then later to Chicago, and then back to Lawrence, Kansas, where we stayed for about a decade. Until I was about 12 years old, we returned to Colorado every summer and some times during winter break. Those trips were the highlights and happiest times of my childhood, and not least because I had a large extended family there. After my grandmother died in 1984 and then my grandfather died in 1994, those trips dwindled, although I have been back to visit on occasion. For a long time, I had hoped to move back to Colorado someday, and that might still happen, although it seems unlikely at the moment. But I’m sure I’ll be back to visit.
The maternal and paternal branches of my family have often seemed just as at odds culturally as they are distant geographically, as though the Colorado side and the New York side were polar opposites. In reality, my maternal grandfather and his sister both left Brooklyn for Pueblo, and my father’s family moved from Brooklyn to Pueblo when he was 13; in fact, my paternal grandfather is buried there. I’ve even discovered that one of my father’s second cousins, whom he had never met, happens to have been buried in the same cemetery as my maternal grandmother, near Denver. Some of my family came through Ellis Island, some through Galveston, but in my family history all roads seemed to lead to Colorado—at least for a time. Now almost everyone has left, heading back east or farther out west.
As for me, I have lived in Massachusetts for the past 18 years, twice as long as I’ve ever lived anywhere else, and though I still dread the long winters (talk about polar!), a recent discovery that a paternal great grandmother entered the U.S. through Boston with Chelsea, Massachusetts, as her destination means that I finally feel like perhaps I have some roots to explore here in New England, too, and perhaps through genealogical research my family history will take on a whole new dimension.
My brother and I at our grandparents’ house in Aurora. On the wall is a portrait of my grandfather. Note the “I Love You Colorado” t-shirts.