My grandmother was 65 when I was born. She seemed old to me from my earliest memory. Now I’m 65 and I have 6 grandchildren ages 11-18. I wonder if I look old to them.
She arrived in the USA in 1900 alone at age 17 on a ship that still had sails along with an engine. I saw a picture of it at Ellis Island. Today I can see photos of outer space provided by astronauts on the International Space Station. “Baba” and I led different lives. “Baba” literally means “old woman” in Slovak – kind of loses something in translation, doesn’t it?
Widowed twice with 6 children, she worked “outside the home” as a cleaning lady – long hours, low pay. No wonder she never really learned to speak English. There was little time to “improve” herself. She did the best she could until her death at age 93 still living in her own home (rented), cooking on a coal stove which also provided the only heat.
I had it easier. However, my demanding job, 3 children and their activities, plus a stressful daily commute didn’t leave much free time either. I thought I did the best I could.
Looking back there were things I could have done better. I’ve written about some of them previously. 50 years ago Baba was warning me to avoid the new stuff they were putting in food. She didn’t know the word “processed” but she knew food was changing.
I spent summers with her as a child since my parents wanted me to get out of “the city” as much as possible. I walked with her to “town” everyday and to nearby “blueberry hill” to get the main ingredient of her pies. If you know northeastern PA, those “hills” are steep! We always picked more than we needed so we would sell the rest to a man from “the city” who bought them for commercial bakeries. 25 cents a QUART! I had $300 in my bank account by age 12. That’s a lot of blueberries!
When I was upset about something, she would tell me “nebudz taka” – don’t be like that. She didn’t mean I should just accept the situation, but I shouldn’t let it get the best of me. “Don’t stress your heart”
I have more time now to follow Baba’s advice. I regret that I didn’t make more of an effort to do it sooner. I well know how hard it is with competing demands on your time.
I hope all you young women (and men) will make a healthy lifestyle a priority. It’s not perfection we’re seeking, but each day to be better than we were. These years count too.
Related blog: Grandma said: “always get a fresh chicken”.