My daughter’s fourth-grade class went to Ellis Island today by way of the gymnasium.
The class took part in the school’s annual immigration program, in which each student is assigned the name of an actual immigrant who arrived in Ellis Island aboard the S.S. Rose. The students, in character and dress, went through medical and intelligence exams, legal inspection and customs before being naturalized as American citizens.
It was an eye-opening experience for all of them, and me. I got to take part in the event with the role of legal inspector. Think DMV worker, calling forth immigrants, asking them dozens of questions and checking their forms, and then either allowing them to move forth into the naturalization line or SENDING THEM TO DETENTION!
It was so. Much. Fun.
Among those I sent to detention (with the help of my pint-sized son, who escorted detainees to the barred area) was my daughter, aka Rifka Isaachson. She was blatantly outraged that I would send her there (“Your own daughter!), but off she went because I was the legal officer and what I said went. Moo-hoo-haha-ha!
But, like a true writer, she got her revenge.
A part of the project is maintaining a diary of the immigrant’s experience. I took a peek at “Rifka’s” diary. Here’s what she wrote about me.
An inspector was glaring at me and beckoning with a finger. She gave me a reminder of a crooked green witch. She glared at me, ‘What’s your name?’ she growled so fast the words blurred together. I choked back laughter as I imagined her in crow-black painted hat.
‘Rifka Issachson,’ I managed.
The witch-inspector gave me a speedy list of questions. ‘Don’t like your attitude,’ she hissed. ‘DETENTION!’
What? I had thought, ‘No!’ But with my head held high, I marched away from the witch’s evil cackle.
Seriously? Her own mother?