Easter is the day I think of my grandmother the most. She would probably like that because she was a devout Catholic (and I’m a devout atheist!). Easter mass was family ritual if not a necessary evil. We’d all return home from church in our Easter clothes. Mom would pull out the Kodak, and then we’d assemble for the obligatory pictures. Film was expensive, and pictures were only for special occasions when we were all dressed-up. I never looked good or felt good because I had spent the night (not) sleeping with a head full of rollers so that I could have the same bad hair I have all the time.
Granny would make fruit salad – without marshmallows – because they’re gross – but with canned peaches – because they’re awesome. We would always have kielbasa and eggs, with a big canned Polish ham that we carved away at all day. Granny always made bread. Real butter, of course, and Mom later made egg salad or deviled eggs from the ones we had dyed. Granny had a cool little bread loaf pan, and we would bring the freshly baked little loaves to our neighbors later in the afternoon, sometimes with jam, after we changed and could go out to play.
Although she passed away almost 30 years ago, I feel my grandmother’s energy and guidance in my life. She always swore that if it were possible to “come back,” she would, and she has made her presence known to me on many occasions. An off-the-boat Polish immigrant: Divorced, single-mother, self-educated, she worked as a seamstress in New York sweatshops during the time they were being unionized by mobsters. As a divorced, single-mother during the 1940’s, I can’t even imaging the hardships and discrimination she had to endure. No education, no credit, a social anathema, a “sinner”…. Amazing….as I look around my beautiful home, and I see my diplomas on my wall, and my cars in my garage, I’m grateful to all the women before me who fought so I could achieve these things. I live the life of a fairy-tale princess compared to my grandmother’s.
Today, I’ll spend time in my beautiful garden surrounded by plants she would love, and the irises that remind me of her. I’ll be thankful for her unconditional love, the strength and determination she instilled in me. And, even though there’s no longer any kielbasa in my kitchen, I’m comforted to know that my Grandmother is always here with me.
Love you, Granny….