I am a lover of horticulture, gardening and the environment. At age 8, I sent away for a package of Zinnia seeds for 10 cents and I've been hooked ever since. After 25 years of being self-employed, I retired. That only lasted 4 years and I now work in a water conservation program: I buy grass from homeowners who are willing to convert to desert landscaping and lose that thirsty green stuff. I pursue what interests me and you can blame my sister for getting me into this blogging thing.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Grandmother

Recently. a friend who is also an author, asked my to write an essay about my grandmother. She is putting together collection of essays about grandmothers. This is my essay.

The More You Give, The More You Get

This is my grandmother's message in my ear. It was a recipe for a happy life, hers and mine. When I was a small child, my mother's parents lived next door. We live behind our tiny grocery store on the corner of Alice and Thornton. Next door, in the two flat, my aunt's family lived downstairs and my grandparents lived upstairs. When my aunt had her third child, they moved into their own two flat and we moved in downstairs.

I was in heaven, my grandma let me come up and help her cook. She said I was her best helper. I think I was around 8. We made cookies, chopped liver and garlic rolls made with schmaltz. In the summer we made cold borscht. I learned how to prepare food from scratch. Many years later, when my grandmother passed away, I received her grandmother's rolling pin. I treasure it to this day and my children are putting dibs on it.

The rolling pin came from Russia, to be more exact, Kremenchug, in the Ukraine. It was in an area of Czarist Russia, also called the Pale of Settlement, where Jews were required to live. It was real life "Fiddler on the Roof". My grandmother, Clara, had a heart condition; she spent a good deal of time in bed. She would regale me with stories of her youth. Her father was a rich man, he owned a lumber mill. He arranged a marriage for Clara (or Chaya as she was known then) with an older man. She refused the marriage because she was in love with Sam (Schmuel). This was in the late 1800's. She was one of the few women in the village who could read and she met my future grandfather at the bookstore. They fell in love and married in 1902. He was a socialist and a bookbinder. He looks very stern in their wedding picture. I still have the original picture. Clara treasured worn black and white photos from Russia and she would tell me about her family. One in particular showed Sam's father's grave. It must have been heartbreaking to miss sharing happy and sad occasions with her beloved family who were left behind when Sam and Clara emigrated to the new world. As I grew older, I was the designated writer of her letters to her friends in Florida and to her son in California, Max. She was infinitely patient with me as I labored to write down her words. I thought I was a favorite grandchild because I was lucky and spent so much time with her. I'm sure my 12 cousins felt they too were favorites of hers.

My grandmother and my mother taught us to play card games, War, Canasta, Kalookie, even Pisha Paysha. That's a new one for you. Definition: pisha paysha - Yiddish a card game for two players one of whom is usually a child; the deck is placed face down with one card face upward; players draw from the deck alternately hoping to build up or down from the open card; the player with the fewest cards when the deck is exhausted is the winner. We played for hours and I loved to win.

Clara always organized picnics at the park on Sundays. Everyone brought fried chicken and other assorted goodies that they made that morning. We swam, we ate, and I was happy to be with my cousins every week. My life was like the movie, Avalon, by Barry Levinson. He examined the essence of the family's relationships. In retrospect, it was an idyllic life. We were actually poor, but there was so much love and acceptance, I never realized it. Clara was the heart of the family.

Hadassah was Clara's favorite charity. She had a 50-year pin commemorating her life-long membership in the organization. They raise money for Hadassah hospital in Israel and other worthy causes. My grandmother taught us to put our change into the Blue Box, which was sponsored by the Jewish National Fund. It was charity, tzadakah in Hebrew. The money was for planting trees in Israel. Every so often, someone would come and open the Blue Box and collect the charity money. To this day, the Jewish National Fund is a favorite charity of mine.

I learned many lessons while sitting on the end of my grandmother's bed. Not only did she teach me how to embroider and cook, I learned her philosophy of life. She always said, the more you give, the more you get. Volunteering had given me a lifetime of rewards, many friends and great memories. This is Clara's legacy.

Clara (Chaya) Fonberg and Samuel (Schmuel Tropp) Truppe
Married 1902
Kremenchug, Ukraine, Russia


Blogger Abandoned in Pasadena said...

That was a heartwarming story.

October 25, 2008 7:25 AM  

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