life in and around NYC is insane

Thursday, March 28, 2013

My grandmother

March 28 was the day my grandmother Dora  would celebrate her birthday.  Whether it was actually the anniversary of her birth is anyone's guess.  In small villages in Eastern Europe in 1902 they didn't keep accurate records.

Actually, 1902 is a guess, too.  It could have been 1901 or 1903. 

Dora was my mother's mother, and my only grandparent still living when I was born.

Basic outline of her life:  She was born in Galicia, in what is now Poland but was part of Austria at the time.  She was the eldest of five children.  She has to quit school at age 12 to support her mother and younger brother and sisters.  Her father had emigrated to America and was unable to send money home during World War I.

After the war her father began sending for family members.  Dora came here with her aunt and uncle and her younger sister Shirley.  Eventually her sister Florence and her brother Al came here as well.  Their mother was afraid to come to this country; she had a minor disability, a limp, and was afraid she'd be sent back. The youngest daughter stayed with her mother.  Both died during what Dora referred to as "the Hitler war."

Her life in this country was typical of immigrants of that era.  She worked in some of NYC's finest sweatshops.  Eventually she met and married Harry.  They lost one child, a son, at birth, but went on to have three daughters (including my mother).  She was widowed young -- Harry died in 1943 -- and she had to struggle to raise three young girls alone.

Although her early years were a struggle, my mother and my aunts saw to it that she lived her golden years in comfort.  She passed away on October 13, 1996, at the age of 94.

My grandmother loved to tell the stories of her life.  She'd tell the same stories over and over, until each of us knew them by heart.  I admit it could be frustrating at times, being cornered by my grandma and having to listen to the same tale I'd heard 100 times before.

But as I grow older I appreciate those stories.

There's a Yiddish word, "bubbameister".  It means "tall tale".  Intetestingly,  the word for "grandmother" is "bubba" or affectionately, "bubbie".  Over the next few weeks I shall present to you my "bubba's meisters", my grandmother's stories.

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