From the Mommy Files…

It’s the Goddess of America!

Posted on: July 4, 2012

In the early 1960s, my father came to the US from Greece, in search of his own American dream. When I was growing up, my dad regaled us with stories about coming to America. Fast forward to 2006, when on a boat in New York harbor, gazing at the Statue of Liberty, I recalled the story and shared it with my husband, garnering laughter from all around us. Here it is, with a reminder to keep family history alive. Your children should know where they come from. I hope you enjoy! Happy 4th of July!

“It’s the Goddess of America!”

NEW YORK — Ahh, New York City. The Big Apple. It’s truly an amazing city–positively electric, and seemingly on the verge of chaos at any moment. One afternoon, we made our way to Battery Park, to take an excursion to the Statue of Liberty. As a little girl, my father had told a wonderful story about the Statue of Liberty, upon his arrival in America. From that day, I’d always wanted to see it.

We were so excited to hear that the Statue of Liberty would be open this particular day. Since 9/11, it is rarely opened to visitors. I was so excited, recalling fondly my dad’s story. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the ticket window, we learned that no more tickets for the statue would be sold. We took the boat excursion any way – we had to see it.

The boat docked at Liberty Island, a 12-acre island in New York Harbor. I stood there in awe, gazing at this amazing statue that was a gift from the people of France so many years before. It was dedicated in October 1886, and serves as an international symbol of freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was designated a national monument in 1924.  The flame of the torch has been restored, and it shines a glorious gold on the green statue. Until 1916, one could actually go inside the torch. The crown is also not accessible. The island is open every day except Christmas, and special, limited availability passes are needed to enter the statue.

Here we were, docked at Liberty Island. I thought about my father’s arrival in America, how he must have felt, and imagining him there. Now it was time to share this very cute story.

It was 1960. Just in his mid-20s, my father left his home near Olympia, Greece, and sailed on a boat for two weeks. He traveled in the lower level of the boat, since the tickets were quite expensive. There, he met about a dozen or so other young men from Greece, all with the same dream – to find work and prosper in America.

The journey lasted two weeks. “There was nothing to do, but play cards and drink,” my dad recalled. Finally, after two weeks, exhausted and plied with drink, one of the men decided to go take a look on deck, to find out if he could see “the Promised Land,” as he called it. The man came running down the stairs, shouting with joy, “The Goddess of America! It’s the Goddess of America! Hurry! Come quick!” They all ran upstairs to have a look, and the beautiful green lady was beckoning, welcoming them to the Land of Opportunity. “Can you believe it?” one said. “We have arrived in the land of dreams,” my father said to the group. “What a beautiful goddess she is,” another said. “She says, ‘Kalos Orisete!’ (Welcome!).  She will guide us and bring us prosperity in America,” the man continued. “But only if we present her with an offering.” They all paused to ponder what their offering to this goddess of America would be. Mind you, they had been drinking, didn’t sleep or eat much in two weeks, so you can imagine their mindset. Then one shared an idea: “Let’s shave our moustaches and sprinkle them on the goddess!” When asked why, he said, “to give her a piece of us, a piece of our Greek selves that we can leave behind forever. We’re now Americans!” It seemed silly, but they all went along with it. It was symbolic gesture, after all.

The very next day, they all had returned to the “Goddess of America,” clean-shaven, whiskers in hand, wrapped in their handkerchiefs. Even with a good night sleep, a meal, and no alcohol, they were determined to carry out the plan. One man rose to speak. “To the Goddess of America, we humbly give you this offering, and ask that you grant us prosperity and good health in America.” And they all proceeded to sprinkle their whiskers on the statue. They hugged one another, wished each other well, and then went on to find their new lives.

My dad never saw those men again, and to this day, will not grow a moustache, as if in some sort of secret pact with the goddess.

By this time, I’d noticed people had been listening as I told the story to my husband, and they were listening quite intently, smiling. They loved it!

I had to call my dad; thank goodness for cell phones. “Where are you?” he asked. “I’m on a boat looking at the ‘Goddess of America’,” I replied. He was silent. I thought perhaps he’d gotten choked up, remembering his arrival to the strange new land, the excitement, the fear, or was he surprised that I remembered the old story. “Dad, are you there?” I asked. I asked again. Was he going to tell me the story was made up for our amusement? Finally he answered. He couldn’t believe I remembered the story, so many years later. Then he laughed and said, “Sweetheart, did you find my moustache?”

Published in The Greek Star, ©August 2006

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4 Responses to "It’s the Goddess of America!"

I love this story, too! It made me tear up!

What a wonderful story. I could picture those dear men and the hope in their hearts as they came to America.

Thanks for checking out my blog, Lynne. I’m glad you liked that story. We always enjoyed hearing Dad tell that story when we were kids. I have to get him on video telling that story, so my kids can appreciate it when they are older. Be well!

Wonderful story, Maria! Thanks for sharing.

Happy 4th of July!

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