Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Something untitled

My grandmother is a special woman. Behind her she has almost a century of world history fraught with wars, repressions, a totalitarian regime, separation of families, the abrupt ending of an entire world of European Jewish culture and community, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the mass emigration of Russian Jewry.

I grew up with her, and her stories have become vivid in my mind's eye, as though I lived them myself. The innocent pre-WWII world, a houseful of children, baking days and washing days, the smell of home-baked Challah, tales of potato candy told in such detail that they make my mouth water to this day even though I never tasted it, ominous rumours, the scattering of families, emigration to the Soviet Union, marriage (no silly things like wedding rings or a honeymoon), a train to No Place somewhere in Siberia, poverty, cold, hunger, walking through a winter forest with an axe as a weapon and a bottle of  life-giving milk for the baby held close to one's heart, to keep it from freezing. 

Raising a family, gardening, fresh fruit and vegetables in season, sewing, knitting, crocheting, living a life that was humble but honest, a lifetime, a whole world encompassed in just one person. It is good to tell the same stories again and again, so that they are remembered. 

There were people in our family who perished tragically and senselessly, like millions of other Jews in the Second World War. Perhaps those branches were cut off the tree, but the tree lives on. And by hearing stories about them, and perhaps trying to do something in the way I was told they used to do, I am doing my little bit to make them, in a way, come alive again. 

I did not have a garden growing up, but I heard of it, and thus began my passion, for many years hidden, to live a simpler life closer to nature, and interact with plants, animals and seasons. Perhaps my heart was  first touched by what was no more, but something new in me stirred. 

Now my grandmother, while still here, is slipping away as it sometimes, unfortunately, happens to old people, and her world is slipping away as well.  I retell some of the things I heard from her, trying to make them come alive as they did for me when I first heard them myself. I tell my children that while she could, she held them, and she loved them very much. 

That is probably the ultimate purpose of our earthly work: to hold and love each other as much as we can. 

We blunder, we make mistakes, we hurt each other. But I want to believe that ultimately things will come right if we wake up every morning with the resolution to hold and love and comfort each other in the limited time we have. 

10 comments:

joy said...

What a wonderful post you have
written. Have you thought about
making your memories into a book. You are such an excellent communicator I know it would be
a great piece.

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely piece of writing. I am sorry to hear of your Grandmothers ill health, I wish you both well.

MDiskin said...

My dearest teacher in high school told me there are two things important in life: preparing for eternity and spending time with the ones we love....

Rose said...

I am sorry to hear that your Grandmother is slipping away Ana but, as you say, this is life.

If you possible can sketch down little notes to remind yourself of the stories she told you. Don't wait for a better time or a clear stretch of time, jot down anything that occurs to you. In a later season of your life you'll be able to string these together into full histories but now, don't rely on memory. hugs

Tammy said...

Beautiful post. Thank you, God for grandmothers. (I was raised by mine)

Mrs. Anna T said...

joy, yes, I actually made an outline for a book and began working on it, but stopped because of writer's block (for that particular project). The notes are there, though.

Rose Godfrey said...

Beautifully written--as always. You are pasing down treasures to your young daughters.

Mrs.Rabe said...

This is beautiful Anna....

I pray that the things your grandmother and family lived through will never happen again....

Deanna

Katie said...

You and your girls might enjoy 'Memories of my Life in a Polish Village' and 'Passover as I Remember It,' by Toby Fluek. Both are efforts to capture the author's childhood before World War II in words and pictures.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. I am a new grandmother and I hope that some day my grandchildren remember me so fondly.