Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mothers' Day

I am in the middle of reading Life Lessons From my Grandmothers by Adriana Tragiani.

Apropos to this upcoming date, it was a great reminder of how beautiful and important a legacy can be. In the end it is not goods that we crave from our loved ones who have gone before us but their wisdom and life examples.
My two grandmothers were very different from each other, just like the author's but their untiring love for us wasn't. I do think that people who emigrated from Italy and other countries a hundred years ago showed much courage and knew that they had to work hard to achieve their goals. 
Both of my grandmothers, like others, worked in factories under difficult conditions. They didn't complain; they accepted that this was a means to an end. In order to survive that had to work hard and work long hours.
My mother's mother, Lucia, moved to Sea Cliff, in the 1920's away from her family who stayed in the enclave in Brooklyn, close to people who were like minded. My grandfather bought an ice business and had to live among people who were not so welcoming. They were successful because of their strong work ethic. Eventually, they bought a home and even an apartment building. We lived in the apartment building for a while and then close by. We saw our grandmother every day. She always had an apron on and was cooking or preparing to cook.
As her first grandchild. I spent time in her large, warm kitchen while she cooked. She took me to the beach and we went visiting our large extended family who lived nearby. 

My father's mother, my namesake Rosina, lived through the Depression, barely. She was a smart businesswoman. With my grandfather out of work, she tried her hand at owning a grocery store and making do with food given to the family by the government. My young shoe shine father brought home nickels every week so that they could buy some sorely needed food. As his sister, my aunt put it, "Sammy saved us many weeks so we didn't starve".
When my grandmother became a widow, in the '40's, she had apartments made in her brownstone, to provide her with an income. She was an independent lady. The weekly Sunday meals that we attended were legend. Nana served homemade ravioli and other pastas, along with roasts, salads and desserts. Each week was actually an event. We would walk into her home and see a table beautifully set for our extended family. We cousins loved being able to play with each other in the postage stamp back yard and fight over the two double swing there.
When I think back at what they accomplished; I am awed. They were smart. They didn't have much of an education, but they were good at business and learning another language, without having the advantage of a formal education.

101 Glimpses of the North Fork and Islands
The Wampum Exchange