My great great grandmother, Pauline, supplied much of the substance for her namesake in the story. She arrived in New York City with my great great grandfather, Gottlieb, in 1867, holding hope and little else. The couple lived first on Attorney Street and then in Hell’s Kitchen. Later they moved to Paterson, New Jersey, about 1880. Of the twelve children she bore, only two survived to adulthood.
Pauline manages such strength despite her age and the wear that twelve pregnancies and unremitting household work have put upon her. She works hard at every task, occasionally humming or singing mostly Swabian songs, so she is likely not from Gottlieb’s immediate land. I have only been living here some few weeks, but already I catch myself mumbling off-key, as Pauline does mostly, “Muss i denn, muss i denn, zum Staedtele hinaus, Staedtele hinaus, Und du, mein Schatz, bleibst hier?”