Seven decades ago, a frightened young girl named Nina saw the tallest, greenest statue she could imagine. The statue held some sort of lantern and little Nina was transfixed in its light. While everyone around her began jumping and shouting, Nina stayed quiet and perfectly still as her eyes remained focused on the lantern and pulled in all the light they could hold. When the ancient boat finally stopped moving after weeks of rough passage across the Atlantic, Nina’s mother had to pull her arm, hard, to break the lantern’s spell.
Five years later, Nina began working, helping to sew gowns at the Catholic hospital on the Lower East Side. She could hardly wait to bring her first wages home to the tenement where she lived with her mother, stepfather and little brothers. Nina knew how much Mamma and Papa Tony could use the extra money. She only held back one quarter from her wages.
After six weeks of hard work, aching fingers, teenage longing and two bits at a time, Nina walked nineteen blocks out of her way to find the storefront that sold the tallest, greenest Statue of Liberty bank in all of New York City. Nina now knew that the light she’d fallen in love with was called a torch and that the torch on her new bank was a simple piece of wood, painted and glued onto the plastic. But pulling the torch, just a little, opened the back of the statue, just enough.
Over the years, Nina stuffed her bank with a few paper dollars then a letter from Korea stamped USMC then a postcard from a small college in Ohio then a picture of her first grandchild. For six decades, the statue bank held Nina’s hopes for the future and dreams of the past.
Even now, the statue remains unbroken and its light is reflected in our memories of Nina.