Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: REFLECTION (10/10/19)
- TITLE: Baby Grandma
By Marilyn Borga
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"Which grandma?" I asked my mom when we received word of an imminent visit from one of my two Hungarian grandmas. "Baby Grandma" was the name concocted in order to distinguish her from "Big Grandma," who was much taller and wider. Baby Grandma was petite, but her figure was forever hidden from us by her many layers of clothing: a dark-printed cotton housedress, several slips, long cotton stockings, a bulky wool sweater, and a colorful babushka tied under her chin. Grandma was perpetually at war with the cold.
She only visited our family in warm weather because our Indiana farm house was drafty and heated with a single oil-fueled stove. One summer in the mid-nineteen-fifties my dad drove our family to the state fair with Grandma in tow. After a long day in the sweltering August sun, all six of us squeezed into our Ford sedan for the long ride home. Dad opened the windows all the way so that we wouldn't suffocate in the stifling heat. I can still picture Grandma seated next to the window, using her babushka to shield herself from the warm breeze, muttering under her breath the whole way home.
In her Cleveland home the family liked to gather in the kitchen to eat and visit. Grandma would grumble that whenever anyone opened the refrigerator she would feel a draft. My mother once witnessed Grandma heating a stick of chewing gum over a steaming tea kettle before putting it in her mouth. On the rare occasions when she indulged in ice cream, it had to be melted before she would taste it. She had no use for ice cubes and only drank water that was hot.
When one of her granddaughters chose a late November date for her wedding, Grandma fussed, insisting that it would be too cold for her to attend. The church sat directly across the street from the house. The day of the wedding a couple of the men in the family simply wrapped Grandma in a huge fur coat and a fuzzy muffler and carried her across the street to the church.
In spite of her foibles she was beloved by all. I've thought about it often. I have come to the conclusion that it was because, besides clothing herself with stockings, multiple slips, and heavy sweaters, Grandma also put on garments of kindness, humility, patience, love, and thankfulness. I remember how she painstakingly used small scraps of left-over material to hand-sew clothing for my dolls. Her voice was always soft, her touch gentle. For years, she fasted one day a week in gratitude that God had spared her life in the flu epidemic of 1918.
She would often say, with her thick Hungarian accent,â€ You know, honey, life is funny.â€ Then she would repeat the story of how she came to America with her husband for a trial visit, expecting to go home again to Hungary. While she was here, she got a letter from her brother, asking her if she had food. He said that if she did have food in America, then she should stay, because there was very little food in Hungary. Life was difficult in Hungary at that time. There was political unrest and repressive legislation for farm workers. Landowners with small plots could barely meet their basic needs. About the time our family settled in America, around 1910, there were about 200,000 Hungarians emigrating every year in hopes of finding a better life elsewhere. Things were much better in America and, fortunately for me, Grandma decided to stay.
"Baby Grandma" seemed to me a fitting name for this tiny woman who babied herself when it came to her enemy the cold. She was a unique creation whose eccentricity gave her family many silent chuckles. As I look beyond her human weaknesses, I can see the peace she found by letting God rule in her heart. She showed me by her kindness, her love, her patience, and her humble ways. I know that God loves me regardless of my imperfection because of what I saw in her. She may have been a baby when it came to her own comfort, but in her faith, she was a child of God. It's been fifty years since her passing and I still smile as I think of her; and I shiver as I fasten the last button on my wool sweater.
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