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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Extra (08/29/13)

TITLE: "Not So Extra . . ."
By Judith Gayle Smith


Dear Gram Hruska hailed from Budapest, Hungary, by way of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and delicately brushed with Bohemian.

She was wiry, strong, but incredibly fragile emotionally.

She offered a delightful remark when compliments found their mark in her. She would proclaim “Not so extra”,

I wish I had spent more time with her. She passed away when I was in High School. I last saw her when I was fifteen, selfish, stupid and self-absorbed.

Gram’s “not so extra” stabilizes me in times of unexpected attacks of flattery. I proclaim “not so extra”, and the billowing clouds of facetiously wicked ego are punctured, and I am safely grounded.

What was “so extra” for Gram? What spurred her through her incredible thoughtfulness for others?

She lost three sons in WWII, and I still remember her grim, unforgiving hatred of then General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

She would show me her special boys’ Purple Hearts – let me hold them as she wept, keening over private memories where things were so extra for her.

When feasting on her golden Chicken Paprikash, this sumptuous marriage of fried chicken bathed in sour cream and sweet Hungarian Paprika – compliments flung in her direction elicited multiple, but sometimes half-hearted “not so extras”.

But I would see a wee smile hovering around her lower lip.

These were extra special times.

I went to the Lutheran Church with Gram, in her dark polka-dot “going out” dress, hat perched atop her braided bun, and army shoes holding her feet hostage. I would love to think she inspired me to Godly living.

No. Gram was a kleptomaniac.
Not so extra.

Gram adopted her sister’s family when her sister died, opening her heart and her home.

She went the extra mile indeed.

I remember her teaching me how to tidy up the living room. Plucking floor debris from the bristles of the carpet sweeper before and after treating the rugs and floors – not so extra but oh so necessary. Thumping the cushions on the old blue horsehair sofa produced a surprising amount of cough-producing dust.

What did I learn about Jesus from Gram? Courage, fortitude, love of family, love of His gardens – but on a platonic level. Being a completely self-absorbed play-oriented child, I was not questing for nor questioning about God.

All I knew about religion at nine years old, was that we were never to tell our other Gram, Mom’s Mother that we were not Jewish. Gram Patterson highly suspected, calling us shiksas. I wish I had shuffled in her slippers for understanding why life was merrier playing cards, rummy and pinochle, chatting wittily in Yiddish and roaring with laughter and friends . . .

Another story for another time.

We were raised as fairly lukewarm Methodists, occasionally attending services and participating as “Rainbow Girls”. I won a beautiful wooden plaque of Jesus, having invited the most people to church. That and the fact that I clung to a crucifix I found in our yard. I needed so much more.

Not so extra.

How I wish I could thrill you with stories of my walk with Jesus as a child. I only know I was baptized at least four times, for sins committed in ignorance.

Not so extra.

Gram Hruska loved her gardens. Her huge wood dining table was covered with unforgettable bounty, groaning under the weight.

She had a wicked sense of biting humor, tempered by her grief over the loss of three of her sons.

She lost her fourth son, my Daddy to drunken folly with a freight train. After Mom remarried, Gram lost us all when Dad moved us from Cleveland, Ohio to San Diego, California in 1953.

Poor Gram ran out of all her extras by then.

When I last saw her, I was astounded that her now iron grey hair barely came up to my chest. But, by golly, she had Chicken Paprikash bubbling on the basement stove.

That was beyond extra.

I wish we had talked about Jesus. I so wish that she had found comfort and the capacity for forgiveness for the loss of her boys. She was the epitome of good womanhood.

But she was tragically, grievously lost. When we moved to California, life seemed to have lost meaning for Gram. Barb and I were her only grandchildren.

Breaking her heart – and mine.

Mom made us faithfully write letters. “Dearest Gram, the weather is nice. I miss you. I love you. The end”.

Not so extra.

I miss you muchly, sweet Gram . . .

Revelation 3:15-17

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This article has been read 495 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Bonnie Rose Hudson09/06/13
Very original and personal way to weave the theme throughout a personal and touching story. Thank you for sharing!
Noel Mitaxa 09/08/13
You give us a beautiful, multi-faceted portrait of the lady whose life also included so many facets. Thank you.
Bea Edwards 09/09/13
This topic took you on a stroll down memory lane and I appreciate that you invited us along.
Virgil Youngblood 09/09/13
Thanks for sharing this beautiful tribute. Adding a recipe as a footnote would be my suggestion. A serving of Chicken Paprikash would be extra nice;desert for an enjoyable story.
Brenda Rice 09/09/13
So touching. Revealing and interesting. Thank you for a well written entry.
C D Swanson 09/10/13
I was pulled in by your touching and beautiful tribute and story of your lovely Gram. She seemed a delight and a spirit of self assurance and confidence in the Lord.

Your descriptions brought me right there, your words made my heart smile and sigh, and the story captivated me.

I loved this whole piece! The last line made me fill with tears. Beautiful!

Loved the scripture you used at the end as well. Altogether a winner for me!

God bless~
lynn gipson 09/11/13
I've said it before, I love your unique style of writing and your knack for storytelling. Your subtle wit with the "Gran was a kleptomaniac" had me chuckling and wanting to know more. I could easily read a book written by you. Blessings.
Dannie Hawley 09/12/13
You have done a terrific job with this article. A depth of emotion and level of transparency that are not easily accomplished in such short few words. Keep writing with your whole heart as you continue to develop your skill at this craft of writing. Thanks for sharing!