A tribute to grandmothers everywhere

Grammy circa 1940s

This post is to commemorate my maternal grandmother. I have no real memory of her. She died when I was three. My mother would tell me that I would run to her and put my arms upward, which meant “pick me up and cuddle me please!” She would say, “I can’t lift you but if your mother lifts you, you can sit in my lap (in German).”  Wish I could remember that.

I owe a lot to her. She left her home in Germany to emigrate here when she was a very young married woman. She spoke no English and never did although she lived here for fifty years. She never had to learn. She lived in a German community. The shop owners and butchers all spoke German. Even the church had German masses. I have a soft spot in my heart for emigrants who do not speak the language. I can’t blame them for wanting to hold onto their culture and history. It’s not because they are lazy. Good grief! They need to work hard to make it.

I can’t imagine leaving my family and friends and all I knew to go off to a foreign country in those days. Especially since it was unlikely you would ever return to the homeland, even for a visit. She didn’t.

She had nine children. That was common in those days – five boys and four girls. My mother was the second youngest. My grandfather died in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. My mother was under ten. She had vivid memories of her father complaining about the chiming of the bells as he lay dying. It was Armistice Day signaling the end of World War I.

Now my grandmother had all these kids to raise. The older ones worked and turned in their money so the family could survive. She took in boarders, grew vegetables, canned food. It was run like a commune. Everyone had to work together. There was no Medicare or social security in those days (or indoor plumbing either!). My mother was yanked out of school when she was thirteen to go to work. The boys, who had more physical jobs, had first dibs at the meat but there was always vegetables, dumplings and strudel to go around.

My mother often talked about her childhood. It was nothing like mine. It was out of a Dickens tale with all the hardship but none of the nastiness. It wasn’t at all like “The Sound of Music” which she loved. She wasn’t sad or resentful. It was all about family and surviving. Christmas presents were oranges (a real treat) and nuts with maybe some yarn to make a sweater.

It is difficult for me to grasp what these women sacrificed and accomplished in their lives in order to make mine so much better. Thanks Grammy and Mom too!

Note: The picture in this post is the only one I have of her. My brother had to identify her to be sure I posted the correct picture. Her gray hair is braided and wrapped around her head. According to the bro, she always wore an apron and always looked old. She was a great cook and a loving Grammy.

This post was Freshly Pressed on December 29, 2011.

157 thoughts on “A tribute to grandmothers everywhere

  1. Pingback: A mysterious admirer or…… | Views and Mews by Coffee Kat

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  3. My maternal grandparents emigrated from Czechoslovakia (now known as the Czech Republic) and came through Ellis Island. I can’t imagine leaving your homeland when you are only seventeen years old, determined to make a better life for your children, (before they even had any children yet). My grandfather was a cabinet maker, and would later go to work at a dairy farm, where he worked almost forty years. The thing I remember the most about them is that my grandmother was always in her tiny kitchen, baking and producing family meals, and my grandfather was always in his lawn chair under the pecan tree out back, with a big smile on his face. On hot summer nights we would all gather around the dining room table and watch the grown ups play dominoes, or pinochle. I loved them enormously, and still miss them all the time. Thanks for this tribute reminding us to hold our memories of our grandparents close to our hearts. Beautifully written.

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  4. Terrific Post! Both my grandmothers were wonderful, and they too were the eternally old and old fashioned kind of gram. I feel very blessed to have had them in my life. Even better, my granddaughter feels that way about me. It’s great when you have love handed down from one generation to the next.

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  5. This post touched my heart & reminded me of my Oma. She’ll be 88 at the end of this month. She also came over from Germany in 1956 with my Opa & father to begin a better life.
    God bless our grandmother’s selfless courage & all they have given us.

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  6. This is lovely! My grandmother raised me for several years. I loved her so dearly but she passed away before I was even really capable of taking care of her. I miss her everyday and every time I think of her I still wish she’s still with me. And it’s true that our grandmothers and mothers as well have sacrificed so much to give us better lives. Great post! 🙂

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  7. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    This post really struck a number of chords with me:

    My maternal grandmother passed two weeks before I was born, so I also have no memories of her.

    My paternal grandmother is thankfully still alive and well, and she has the most wonderful stories and memories; she’s the record keeper of our family, and I’m training to take over some day.

    I have a keen interest in where my people come from.. so much, in fact, that I’ve moved from the US to Poland (although other things factored into our move too) to try to learn more about where I came from.

    I look forward to hearing more of your stories!

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  8. Very lovely sentiment about your Grandmother! We are 4th (maybe 5th) generation Italian from Sicily and growing up, I remember visiting this lovely old lady (who scared me bc she was OLD) but she was Sicilian and lived alone in her S. Philly row home. She always had cookies and would shuffle to greet my father (her grandson) and her great-grandchildren at the door.

    She always had her change purse and would carefully pick out her best nickels and give them to both my brother and me. Her hair was snow white and piled messily upon her head and she wore the same apron and house dress (I swear). Her nails were way too long and curled like a witch at the end. Her English was “notso gooda” but we knew she loved us! She passed on before I was old enough to realize the intelligence in her age. It is a fond memory to look upon how the generations change.

    She was also my first funeral at the age of 9 or 10 and the trauma of that passing still stirs deep in my heart when I recount the simplest of memories of that little Sicilian woman who gave us nickels!

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  9. This is a great blog…I enjoyed…reading especially made me think, miss and love my grandma all over who has recently passed. This story tells the story of many women, emmigrants, and people who were very resourceful during that time to run a house and keep a family safe and healthy as best as possible…i salute all grammies!!!

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  10. Hej from Sweden,
    First Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!!!!
    Second, I feel every woman owes a big thank you to their grandmothers. I am nearly 60 yrs old and I owe much of who I am to both my mother and my grandmother. They were both so very strong and inspirational and influenced my life much more than I could have ever imagined. As the circle of life continues, I can see the strength and other wonderful qualities that I know are a direct result of what they both passed on to me. I had passed everything I received from them on to my daughter.
    Grandmothers are far too under rated. They are to be cherished, valued and never forgotten .
    I hope to continue our family legacy when I become a grandmother.
    Thank you for posting.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR / GOTT NYTT ÅR

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  11. This post is so beautifully written. It’s similar to the story of my grandfather in India, and I am reminded of how grateful I am to him to give us all such good lives.
    Great work !

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  12. Lovely….I miss my grandmother all the time. I was fortunate to have known her. She was 96 when she died. She came from Ireland as a young woman and met my grandfather here. My paternal grandmother also came to NYC as a single womand and met my Granda…but they went back to Ireland. A few years ago I started researching my family which soon became an obsession! But there are SO many questions I wished I had asked her.

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  13. Remembering our grandparents (even if the memories are constructed from the retellings of others) is essential to our humanity and progress. It is like a flame that must be fed and nurtured so that it can live through us.

    My grandparents on both sides of my family struggled to give their children the best in life. On my maternal side, they were Jews from Brooklyn working hard to give their children a shot at the college education neither could ever afford. I remember when I graduated from high school, my grandfather was so proud. It made me realize that it is a bigger deal than most teens today realize. On my paternal side,my grandparents came from a legacy of slavery and raised nine children in the heart of an impoverished neighborhood. My father grew up knowing the Washington kids sat on the stoop when it got dark and didn’t run around like the other neighborhood kids. That discipline led him and his siblings to much success in life despite the odds.

    Thank you for sharing your story and making me remember to keep mine alive too!

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  14. I write about my Nonna often on my blog, and your grandmother sounds a lot like her: a tough immigrant who survived and thrived here in the USA.

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed.

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  15. Wow very inspiring I never met my grandmothers they both died before I was born. Nice to know you had a great grandmother makes me think of what it would be like for me if I had a chance to know my grandmothers. Very nice post, I’m sure she is proud of you. 1coffeehouse.wordpress.com

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  16. Kate and commenting contributors:
    THANK YOU for the pleasure of these conversations! To use a comfortably corny line, you fill my heart with joy and gladness. Please accept a couple of grandmothers of mine, and a great grandmother–all of them great.

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  17. It is heart warming to read your experience. Like you, I am the first born of the 3rd before last of twelve children. However, I was gifted with spending my entire between school years vacations with my grandparents. She passed away when I was 10 and it is up to date, it is my greatest loss ever. I have tons of memories with her. According to my aunts and cousins, she never was physically affectionate with anyone except me. An honor considering that she met about 30 of my 44 cousins.
    It is believed in many cultures: where the parents “failed” with their children, the grandparents fix it. Sort of an induction into the lives of their grandchildren. Without doubt, she was that for me. Being a grandmother myself, I can say it is true! It is amazing and awesome to see how I teach my little granddaughter and how deep it gets. Particularly in the realm of behavior.
    Thank you for your warm blog and I cheer tribute with you and all your readers.

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  18. it’s good to have grandmas. Having lost both in the last year, it’s good to celebrate their lives. It’s quite something to realise that one person has lived through a time when kids in the streets had no shoes, saw the first aeroplanes and then saw men walk on the moon and computers.

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  19. Loved your tribute to your grandmother! I agree that it must have taken so much courage for her to leave her country for a new one, especially back then. My mom’s parents were from Germany and very much stayed in their own community at first. In fact, my aunt’s (the first born) first langauge was German and my grandparents sent her to a German-language school in the US. Language so often connects us with our roots!

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  20. I love my grandmother! I call her Kukla, because she called me that when I was born (it means “my little dolly” in greek i think, correct me if I’m wrong.) Well, apparently it stuck, I turned around and called her Kukla. And she certainly is one of a kind. She has flair and pizzazz even now in her upper 70’s.
    This magnificent woman is so special to me…She is the backbone of my foundations, and she is the reason I got to where I am today, She drove 45 minutes to pick me up 3 days a week and take me to dance class for 1-2, sometimes 3 hours. Her hours spent on the road to get me, in the waiting room of the dance studio, and the hours spent driving home (for 10 years!) were all a tremendous sacrifice of love. I am so grateful for her gift to me, and for her love.
    Today, I am a choreographer and dance instructor, as well as a visual artist and have a line of artisan jewelry.

    All because of the hours of love and sacrifice from the woman I call grandmother. Thank you Kukla!

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  21. I totally empathise because my parents made the same sacrifice for me and my brother too. They moved from Africa just so we can get a better education and more chance of ‘making it in life’. Till today, as immigrants with very little education, they work d*mn hard for me and my (now brothers) and sometimes, when I think about it, I am so sad for them and all the sacrifices they had to make for me. Thankfully, it’s not as tough as what your mother went through but all I can say is that God gets us through it all day by day 😀 I think that the day I graduate from university (in less than four years) would be a very joyful day for them. They can say, ‘One down, two to go.’

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  22. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage? My blog site is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my visitors would definitely benefit from some of the information you present here. Please let me know if this okay with you. Thanks a lot!

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  23. What a sweet post. And I’ve enjoyed reading all the previous comments as well. We have the German heritage in common. I am a grandmother and I’m raising my granddaughter. I hope she has some fond memories to hold onto, mixed in with the ones that involved homework and chores . . . Have a great day!

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  24. My mother’s side of the family is from Southern Germany and I always felt privileged to know both of my great Grandma’s from that side of the family. Both were very friendly and great cooks.
    I grew up in Northern Germany so when we visited our family in the South, each Grannie made dishes with homemade Spätzle (German noodles). Even though I’ve been living in the States for some time, Spätzle are still my favorite dish and as of today I make them myself, the same way as my Grannies did.

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  25. This is such a cute post. Fortunately, I still have both grandmas with me but they were adorably loving and caring when I was growing up. The grandma from my fathers side always taught me to care for others, to be fair, to always look at the bright side of life.
    My grandma from my mothers side taught me to love literature, to love writing, to love beauty and aesthetics…. I have two blog posts dedicated to them 🙂

    Perhaps you’d be interested? One is called “Black or White” and the other is the latest one, Christmas edition.

    www,wordpress.dressupforme.com

    Thank you for sharing. 🙂 It’s nice to read it when I can easily relate to what you mean 😉

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  26. Great story. And we think we have it tough. Mind you if things keep going the way they are we might all be gorwing our fruit and veg even on our balconies. It hardly bears thinking about.

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  27. I went out last week and bought myself a perfume, when I took it home and asked my Mother to smell it she said ‘that was your Grandma’s favourite perfume’. My grandma died when I was 9years old, I have some memories of her, I believe that our grandmothers live on in some way through us…even if it is just that we like the same perfume!
    Great post.
    Christine
    x

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  28. Very nice post – I realize how important it it to pass along this respect for elders to my daughters. If anyone is looking for some good beginning reader books featuring Grandmas, Tomie de Paola is a great author to check out.

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  29. what a wonderful post, my own grandmother, that’s my mum’s mother married so early. you know how we used to do it in Africa? she married at the age of 15 and she gave birth to 12 children in which my mother is the fourth child. she went through pains as a result of early marriage and she is still passing through it now. I love her so much. thanks..

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  30. I have a very similiar tale about my own grandmother, who came from Spain to Brazil…I had the honor and pleasure to enjoy her company much longer than you, though. However,not a day goes by without me thinking she left way too soon… Here’s to all gradmothers, dead or alive, who are literally the reason why we are here today!

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  31. Pingback: Awards for the rest of us « year-struck

  32. This tribute to your grandmother goes without saying a real tear jerker. It touches anyone who has had the joy of having a grandmother. I lived with my Italian grandma and I loved and enjoyed her for as long as I had her growing up. Being a grandma myself, my grandchildren are now my greatest joy. And so life continues for grandmas!

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  33. What a lovely tribute – no longer an unsung hero:-) My grandmother was pretty remarkable woman too. Around 1900 she married a black man in Jamaica and was ostracised by the white and coloured Jamaican community as a result but they produced 11 children one of whom was my Mum and I wrote a book about her. Like you, I’m so proud of my heritage and I wish I’d known her. Thanks for sharing.

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  34. Wow…this post is so relevant to me. I just had a dream a couple of days ago about both my grandmothers (my paternal grandmother I knew) but my maternal grandmother died before I was born. It is so important to honour them and their lives — even if we weren’t fortunate enough to meet them. They live in our hearts.

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  35. What a great post! My grandfather and his family were smuggled out of Russia. We have a photo of all of them bald as babies. This was so immigration could say they had lice and send them back.
    I always asked my grandpa about Russia, but he refused to talk about it. The memories were too hard I think. So much I wanted to know, and that I never will.

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    • I met a woman who went through the holocaust. She survived a death camp. She would never talk about it. You would never know she had such hard times because she acted “normal.” I expect that she kept those feelings very deep.

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  36. There is something special about dotting down one’s family history – it’s much more interesting than writing up a review on a funky skirt, a funny book or a doomed New Year’s Resolution, isn’t it? Your post has reminded me of my Nan. She’s 87 now, a war-bride from England. She can still remember D-Day well, as she lived where the Yanks pushed off for France. Arh, I should interview her for posterity.

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  37. As I was logging-in to my blog, your blog title caught my eye! So glad to read your story about your grandmother. My grandmother passed away just recently, in early November. I was blessed to have her in my life for such a long time and was honoured to be with her in her final days and hours. I have written about her in my blog (inanirishhome) on wordpress. Maybe, if you get a minute, you’d enjoy reading about my gma (as we all called her). Also, having been an immigrant (to Ireland) myself, I know what it’s like to start a new life in a place that is not your home country – it’s very difficult – and my start was not complicated by foreign language, a big family and hard economic times (though Ireland was a not a wealthy country when I moved there in 1989). No doubt your grandmother was a strong woman. It’s really lovely that you took time to remember her and keep her spirit alive. Well done!

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  38. There is so much power in stories! Yours is well-told, thanks for sharing. “Story” puts a human face to the word “immigrant,” which is sadly dehumanized in so many conversations on the topic. Transitioning to another country and way of life is not for the faint of heart, it takes a great deal of bravery and resolve.

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  39. I love that! My Gran (Amelia) was amazing as well, although Spanish in decent. I think that your Gran is smiling down at you tonight, that was such a sweet sentiment <3. Thank you for sharing her with us.

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  40. Thank you for this. 🙂 I grew up without my mom so I never got to meet my grandmother. I found out through a dna test that she was mainly Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and aboriginal from Latin America. 🙂

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  41. Wow. What a touching tribute. I, too, come from a hard-working German background and could say the very same thing about my ol’ gran! Thank you so much for posting this. It brought back a lot of memories for me.

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  42. I loved your memories and tribute to your grandmother! There was only one grandparent alive when I was born, my Dad’s mother. She worked until I was 10 or so and then started enjoying retirement to the fullest. That kind of left me out of the loop but after the hard working life she led I can understand why she wanted to enjoy herself. She ended up living until she was 90 so I had her in my life well into adulthood, which helped make up for the other three I never knew.

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  43. My great grandmother was Indian and live on a reservation in Oklahoma. She walked the trail of tears when she was a little girl. She never talked about it. I wished I were older when I was with her because I would have loved to hear her stories. She was a teacher when she was older and she knew Geronimo.

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  44. Lovely tribute. I have a grandfather who died when I was young but I never got to meet (lived on the opposite side of the country). I still remember having a few phone calls with him, but it would have been nice to actually get to know him.

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  45. Having left the US to live in the UK with my Brit husband, I could not have done it if it meant never going home to my American family again. I can’t imagine the life your grandmother lived especially after she was widowed. Thanks for a glimpse into your family history and well done being Freshly Pressed.

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  46. What a story! My grandmother was born 1899. I loved her. You can lose everything, but not what you learn, she said. She had a large vegetable and fruit garden and made syrups, jam and pickles. It was a 1/2 hour walk to see her and I often went.

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  47. That’s so interesting, thank you for sharing. My Oma is also German. She immigrated after World War II, learned English, became a citizen and became a wonderful mother and grandmother! It’s amazing the hardships she went through, just trying to grow up during WW II on the German Homefront. Don’t think I would be as strong as her!

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  48. You really touched on a relatable subject. Everyone has a grandmother or great grandmother to relate to. Just as with the immigrants today, the people in the generation who come here are the sacrificial ones. Although they don’t speak English, their children will be educated and will be able to get jobs and assimilate.

    Isn’t it sad when the newly educated youngsters are embarrassed by their grandparents and their heritage rather than celebrate them?

    Ronnie

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  49. Pingback: to know where we’re going, we should know where we came from | thekatherineproject

  50. This is a terrific tribute to strong women and a wonderful description of life as an immigrant to the US in late 1800-early 1900s. There was no safety net then but family…Of course, now there are so many more people in the US…all vying for limited resources. Anyway, I love this posting!

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  51. What a great post! Brings back very fond memories of my Great Grandparents and Grandfather who all immigrated from Italy. My Italian Grandmother was the first of her family born in the United States.

    Thanks for the memories and what an appropriate time of year!

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  52. I don’t have the fortunate memory of my grandmother either (on either side). My mother had me in her mid- thirties and she was one of the youngest of her mother’s litter (15 children). This was uplifting. thank you for sharing.

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  53. very cool. i don’t have any remaining grandparents, and 2 of them i have no memory of. the memories i do have are of my fathers mom…a fiesty german/irish catholic who’s alcoholic and abusive husband passed away in his 40’s. she raised 7 kids on her own. made it through a tragic house fire, the death of one of her children, and dealt with pancreatic cancer in her final days. not an ounce of self-pity in that women even for 1 minute of the time i knew her. my moms father came from humble beginnings to start his own ag company. he lost his wife of 20+ years in a terrible car accident, but after a while re-married and rediscovered some of his passions like cars and traveling and horses. he struggled with lukemia in his final days. never heard him complain about any of the cards he was dealt. their stories are something i value a great deal…i just hope i can acheive a fraction of what they both did.
    http://www.icouldntmakethisshitup.wordpress.com

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  54. The factory today is still family owned and run by the great Grand daughter of Santa Lucia. At this century year old company, the family continues with the great soap making traditions that were a matter of honor for the original founders.

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  55. “‘Ich kann dich nicht hoch heben aber wann deine Mutter es macht dann darft due an meinem Schoss sitzen'” in German…..My heart flip flapped while reading this. I resided in Germany for six years during which time our only child was born in 1989. As an African American, I have several stories of that time, and prefer to remember the pros and less the cons. What I can say to you is that your story etches a soft spot in my heart. Ironically enough, my husband just came in and teasingly called me “Ollie Greene” my maternal grandma who taught me how to knit, took me to church every Sunday and taught me how to throw popcorn into the fire so we didn’t have to use the stove:-) My other beloved maternal grandma, Mama Mill, taught me how to hold my head high, appreciate my beauty and sing like a bird. By the way, Sound of Music is one of my favorite movies. Thank you for this post. It is excellent!!

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  56. My grandmothers birthday was yesterday, I miss her terribly. She will be gone almost 6 years. She was more like a mother to me. I was very lucky to have lived with her most my life, my mother had me at 16. My grandmother was much like yours (only mine was Italian) a remarkable women who did so much in her life under some stressful circumstances. She was a widow in her early 30’s suddenly and with a daughter and a grandchild (me). She begged the bank until they finally gave her a mortgage and she got her own home, my mother and sisters still live in it.

    You wrote a wonderful tribute to your grandmother, it made me cry and laugh at the same time. Congratulations on not only a beautiful story but being Freshly Pressed.

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  57. My great grandparents came from Finland in the late 1800’s, my mom and aunt have started to tell me about where my family came from. It was hard on my granny too, she had 6 children, the youngest was 4 when her husband passed away (my grandfather). My mom remembers raising chickens (and slaughtering them too) and a dirt floor warmed by a single wood stove.
    I became an immigrant to the US not long ago from Canada. It’s expensive if you are straight out of college starting a new job down here, it got even more expensive after I married and applied for a green card. If you think the DMV is bad, try USCS! Immigrants (who are not yet citizens) have to pay a lot more for school in the US too. So much for expanding my degree…

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  58. Do you think though, that today, more emigrants should learn the language of the country they moved to? I see lots of foreigners in Australia, but yet they don’t associate with me and only stay in their little groups. I would love to be friends with them or get to know people but I always feel like (these days) emigrants look down on you for living your own culture, if theirs is different. Shouldn’t people also appreciate the culture they moved to (more applicable in today’s world, still hardships in some countries but not like it was)?

    This was lovely to read. Very nice writing. I have an Oma, family from Holland. She has also lived in my home country for most of her life and does know English but I love hearing all the stories about her life. So different back then. So much to be grateful for. 🙂

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  59. My family is all from Italy; my mom is the child of immigrants, and my dad MIGHT be. (We’re not sure where his mom was born.) Their families killed themselves to survive, long before FDR had created any sort of government support system. I’m proud to have that sort of ornery determination buried in my genes.

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  60. The title of your post acted like a magnet for me, since I loved my (maternal) grandmother and I am myself a grandmother now, having a 4-month-old first grandson. I could say lots; for example, that my 5 siblings and me have organized a party to celebrate the 100th birthday of our grandma in the Christmas of 2006, even though she had been dead almost ten years by then. We innaugurated a small library that day, formed with books given out by the 6 of us and some friends. One of the much-cherished books (series in fact) in that library is Little House on the Prairie! (mentioned by Kayla, above).
    Note: I don’t live in the US nor am of German-Polish-Hungarian-Sweden descent. I am a Brazilian, living in São Paulo, and my grandparents have all of them (also paternal ones, whom I didn’t get to know) come from Portugal! So this makes the title “…to grandmothers everywhere” even sweeter to me. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  61. Your post makes me think about my own grandmother growing up on a smallholding in the Norwegian mountains. These women had a strength that I, in my multi-tasking pretense of efficiency, can only dream of. Thanks for the good read.

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  62. Even though you don’t personally remember your Grammy, she lives on through you and your brother. I thank God that my great great grandparents left Germany to make their way in America. You are very blessed to have such wonderful women as role models AND family!

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  63. My Grandma was an immigrant from Germany too. She never learned to speak English and she died when I was very young. I remember the cakes she baked and the pillows she hung out the window to “air.” I love your post because now I am a grandma too. I hope my grandchildren will think enough of me to do a tribute like yours some day. Thanks so much for sharing this. Dor

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  64. So sweet and simple with depth. I too was eating a little “cutie” orange while reading this post and thinking about Little House on the Prairie and how they would get oranges for Christmas. 🙂

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  65. I love people, especially old people like grandparents. They carry such a huge history with them–and so many stories. The only alive grandmother I have is my maternal one and I love her dearly. Your post reminded me of her– it made me smile and cry at the same time 🙂

    It’s beautiful, really. Thankyou. And I’m glad you held on to every bit of her.

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  66. Really loved this. Little coincidence: Before I read your post, I just finished an orange which always makes me think if my dad. For Christmas, each of the seven kids would get an orange. Sometimes this was the only present. How much we take for granted.

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    • My mother loved oranges her entire life. Occasionally I would have a case of premium oranges sent to her from Florida. That made her as happy as any other gift I would give her. Some traditions stick with us.

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  67. Yeah.. I too, had grandparents from who themselves were children of the Ellis Island immigration years. I once reflected to my kids that if I had to pick a time to live life over again I would have elected the time period of my grandparents. From automobile, to flight, to landing on the moon; from two world wars, a great depression, with in-between decades of growth and prosperity, from the Marconi wireless, the first SOS (Titanic), from pictures from the moon, and live TV from around the world.. my grandmother lived through it all. And while her quality of life changed along with all those events in the end she was still my grandma who held me, played with me, and gave me ice cream if I promised not to tell my mother. She was the reason all was right with the world. I wouldn’t mind a little more of that to this day.

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  68. What a beautiful story about your Grandmother. I do remember mine (she practically raised me). All of the special memories of her and all the things we did together are so precious to me. Looks like you found a way to make what could have been wonderful memories special to you. That is what it’s all about.

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  69. Great tribute to your Grammy. I am one of the lucky few who had a great-grandmother who actually was around long enough to meet her little “blonde georgie” that was my eldest son, his middle name is George after Grandma Annie’s son, my grandfather, my maternal Grams died when my mom was only about 5, but I did have a wonderful step-gran who helped to raise her, as well as my paternal grandmother, whom I spent many a day with.

    Like your family mine on my fathers side was of German decent and I wanted to know what they were talking about so I took a semester of German, fyi some of the words they used were not taught in class so I still didnt know what was being said lol.

    I miss all of those that have gone now, but I believe your tribute pays your grammy well into her generation and the things they struggled through to make ends meet, we have lost so much of those instincts in todays society.

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  70. Thank you for sharing this! Fortunately, I am able to remember my maternal grandmother, but my paternal grandma I am not. Thank God, my grandfather is alive and he tells me little things here and there about her. I also get a chance to see her pictures. 🙂 Again, thanks for sharing your story. Happy New Year.

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  71. The sad thing is, it really should not be. Except for our indigenous peoples, we are all here as immigrants. Those who are throwing stones at them (us, really, because they are us at some point) seem to suffer from loss of memory and self-hatred at some deep level. Thank you so much for the post. I was fortunate enough to have a woman adopt me as her granddaughter when I was in my 20’s. I met her when she was 89 years old – one of the original suffragettes in the 1920’s. Both of my own grandmothers had died when i was ten and i think she knew I needed one. A most profound and valuable relationship for me. We need more of these kinds of articles.

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  72. This is a lovely post about your grandmother. It’s amazing to hear the stories of our grandparents and parents; they’re so unbelievably different from our lives and it’s fascinating. My latest post was about my grandfather – I was lucky to know him for a few years (he passed away a few months after I turned 9), and the stories I hear from my grandma are incredible. Thanks for sharing such a sweet post and congrats on being freshly pressed!

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  73. What a wonderful post. I am always sadden and weirdly amused to hear people talk down about immigrants. Things like learn to speak English and degrading remarks about 6 families living in home meant for just one family. The resourcefulness and close nit community is viewed as something to be ashamed of for some reason. I have never understood why people can’t see the risk and sacrifice endured when leaving everything and everyone that is familiar, to travel somewhere where often times you are seen as carrying the plague or something. We have forgotten just how many of our own ancestors had to endure such risk, sacrifice, and ridicule. I have a great admiration for those who work three jobs to make a better life for themselves and their children. Your grandmother would have been proud of you and would probably tell you that you are living proof that all the struggle she went through was well worth it.

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    • My grandmother raised her children in a 3 bedroom house with the one of the rooms a walk through to get to the other bedroom. On top of that, she took in boarders who slept during the day when the kids were working. Not sure I could do that but you never know what you are capable of until you need to do it to survive.

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  74. Great post. Although I only knew one of my grandparents – this lady is so familiar – so like my friends’ grandmothers. We always have an orange and nuts in Christmas stockings – ’cause, well, it’s always been that way. (Also oranges were a rare treat for my dad as a child – one that was bought specially for Christmas as oranges weren’t grown anywhere near.)

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  75. A lovely Tribute to your Grammy. It is hard to know what our grands did in their native countries but I am sure glad they made it here. I would not want to have been born any other place. -Scotland- and -France- I am the third Generation of Scotland and about the 12th of France.
    Bless them all. Thank goodness they were welcomed back then

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  76. This post brought tears to my eyes…tears of remembrance of my own grandmother who followed nearly an identical path to yours, only her starting point was Hungary. I loved her dearly, have always considered her the most important hero I’ve ever known, admired her steadiness, talents for cooking, gardening, sewing, stretching a dollar, generosity, and ability to perservere through awful adversity. She never complained; she just kept going. I’ve tried always to follow her example enough to make her proud. Sometimes when I hear people complain about their petty inconveniences, I want to slap them!

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  77. My polish grandmother and the other polish ladies of the tenement used to sit and sew in the back yard in the summer. They would all pitch in a nickel and buy a bottle of whiskey to pass around. No rootbeer in their neighborhood.

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    • I don’t think there was rootbeer in my neighborhood either. I have vague memories of wild cherry wine and that godawful Mogen David stuff. Somehow those were peaceful days. I don’t remember my grandmother but I was raised in the midst of family with aunts and uncles living all around. It was a safer time.

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  78. Great post. What strong women, your grandmother and mother. The students I teach are all immigrants, and 99% of them are here to work hard and make a better lives for themselves and their children. I have nothing but admiration for them.

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  79. That’s a great blog. This should be printed in the Call so current immigrants can see what “real immigrants” had to put up with to survive. Grammy always had baked goods for family members who would congregate at her house every Sunday. The ladies would sit in the kitchen and talk (gossip) in German; the men would congregate in the garage and quaff rootbeers and solve the problems of the world. Tempus fugit!!

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    • Rootbeer? They quaffed rootbeer? What about the homemade wine? Somehow I’m not buying the rootbeer part. I think immigrants still have a tough road. There is more help and services available today but it’s still hard move to a different culture.

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      • My father is 95 and my mother died a few years ago. One of them, I don’t remember which, talked about their homemade root beer. My father’s family was German and my mother’s parents were Polish. In fact, when I was a little girl, I remember seeing a bottle of possibly a starter for root beer. My mother’s parents were both passed on when I was born, as well as my paternal grandfather. His mom I never got to know well. Which is why I want to be more than just a memory to my children’s children. There’s something special about grandmas!

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      • In response to Thomas’ post- I agree with you Kate, that it is Still difficult to move to another culture. I also don’t think that one type of immigrant can be considered “real” Thomas. In fact, I honestly will say that I have no idea what you mean by that statement, but am currently finding it myopic.

        My grandparents’ parents were from Norway, Sweden, and Germany mostly, and my grandparents and their siblings have been a large part of my upbringing. It is so interesting to go and talk to my great aunt about Norway, and I think that the older generation has a lot to offer our “have it now” culture, and that we should honor our elders/ try to learn from them while we can.

        Thanks for sharing this touching post Kate!

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