Gagi's Panda

In Fun
Relationship: Child of im/migrant
Gagi's Panda
Gagi's Panda

This stuffed bear was given to my grandmother, Gertrude Aronson, circa 1905 in Stettin, Germany.  When my mother, then Karla Eleanore Maligsohn, was born in 1925, she inherited the toy. I have been told that it comforted her from infancy on, that she teethed on the bear for pain relief and cried into its belly when distraught or lonely.  The bear left Berlin with Karla and her parents in late 1939. She was my mother’s only companion and comfort when, on board the SS Normandie docked in the New York harbor, she was questioned and physically examined by uniformed immigration officials.  
Eventually the well-traveled panda was given to me by my mother. I remember looking at her often throughout my childhood, and I distinctly recall confiding my thoughts and dreams to her. She was a tangible link to my beloved grandmother, “Gagi.” 
I treasure this panda more and more each day as a metaphor for my grandmother’s, my mother’s and my own life. She is not as pristine and soft as when my grandmother first held her, nor are her facial features fully intact, or her seams  as strong. But both we and this treasured toy,  have ultimately thrived and have borne our scars with pride. Gagi lost everything except her accent, yet she successfully reinvented herself in the U.S.  My mother bore the physical and psychological scars of surviving the Nazis her entire life. She created a wonderful second act in Ohio.  Like the panda, my scars are physical. They remind me that I, too, survive 

Place(s): Stettin and Berlin, Germany
Year: 1939

– Joan

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant