Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My Grandmother, Anna


58 — That's the number of facets found on a round, full diamond. The glittering sparkle that you associate with diamonds comes from these flat polished surfaces. No matter which way you look at the diamond, no matter what the distance, or the angle, you cannot see all the facets from one single view. Some of the facets always remain hidden from your sight.

People then, are a lot like diamonds. No one person can ever view all the facets of another.

Grandma was a petite, feisty woman. I cannot imagine that there was ever a day, or even a moment when there was the least bit of ambiguity in my grandmother's life. She was always so certain of the correct thing to do in any circumstance, that it is hard for me to imagine her in any other way.

Grandma didn't hold conversations as much as she held inquisitions and intense conversions to Grandma's way of thinking. I remember once, when my children talked me into letting them adopt a homeless cat, that my daughter named Super, I was a little apprehensive of Grandma's reaction.

Grandma's opinion, “you should name the cat Fluffy.” And with that, the subject was closed, and for the rest of her life she referred to the cat as Fluffy, never mind what the cat's name actually was.

Grandma was a marvel in the kitchen. She canned all her own fruits and vegetables. Her mustard pickles, a concoction of pickles, lima beans, tomatoes, cauliflower, small onions and carrots swimming in a tangy mustard sauce, can still make my mouth water at the mere thought. And she made bread and butter pickles that no factory made rendition can come close to approximating.

But where Grandma really shined was in her baking. And here is where you will find a divergence in opinion about exactly what Grandma baked the best. My dad would say cherry pie or chocolate cake. My children's favorite would be any cookie Grandma brought to our door. My own vote goes to her chocolate marshmallow cookies. Say, amen, and pass the plate.

Even when Grandma was diagnosed with diabetes, she continued baking her famous goodies, giving all to family and friends — I never heard her complain even once about the unfairness of it all. Grandma realized controlling her diet was a given, and for Grandma knowing a thing and doing a thing were synonymous. Had it been me, I would have hung up my baking apron for good, and told everybody to learn to bake their own, slamming the door hard in their faces.

Grandma had a mischievous sense of humor. She was always trying to trick my father into eating things she knew he wouldn't like. Dad's favorite kind of cake was chocolate, and on more then one occasion, she would show up bearing one of these fine cakes. The twinkle in her eyes, gave her away. Dad wouldn't know what little bonus was added to these fine offerings, but he knew when his mother was up to no good.

One time she added tomato soup, another mayonnaise, zucchini was also an added ingredient — my dad didn't take one bite. Me, I'm not nearly as picky and I would try each one — the zucchini and mayonnaise renditions earned thumbs up — the tomato soup one, not so good. But the most memorable of all was her sauerkraut cake.

It was a beautiful cake, gorgeous to behold, until you took the first few bites and ended up with stringy sauerkraut in your mouth. That one was definitely not a keeper. And dad smiled knowingly and refused her obvious ruse. It was OK with Grandma, there was always another time, another cake, another oddball ingredient waiting to fool my father.

As a child, Grandma had grown up in a German-speaking household, and hadn't learned English until she went to school. Born in 1911, she would have been starting school during World War I. I once asked her to speak German, and she told me she didn't remember. I asked if her parents ever talked about Germany. No, was her quick, end-of-conversation answer. Well, what did she think of Germany, I pressed on. And all she would say, shaking her head, “Oh that Kaiser.” And that was all I ever got out of Grandma on that subject.

My memories of my grandmother are many. She taught my children to play dominoes, proclaimed the color of a brilliant sunset, sky blue pink, and worried about her eldest granddaughter trying to raise three children on her own. Sometimes she exasperated, sometimes she invigorated, and always she stood firm on her views of the world. I miss that twinkle in her eye, her steady hand and even her disgusted shake of the head when she talked about the President, “that old Ree-gan,” as she called him.

Today, January 16 would have been her 97th birthday. Happy Birthday, Grandma. Your eldest granddaughter misses you.

Until Next Time ...

Note this post first published online, January 16, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online http://www.thenews-messenger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=BLOGS02

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