Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My Gramma Gramma...

My grandma, my father's mother, was the kindest person I've ever encountered. She never had a bad word to say about anyone...ever.

She, Stella, was born in Chicago in 1911, daughter of polish immigrants. Her mother, Josephine Urzendowski, and father, Joseph Walaszek, came here to start a new life. She married my Grandpa Joe in 1930. He was also born in Chicago, in 1907. His parent’s, Frank and Rose, had also emigrated from Poland.

My grandmother, who passed in 1981, will forever be remembered as ‘Gramma Gramma”. This name came about when my son, her first great grandchild, could not say great grandma. He, in his own toddler way at the age of two, called her Gramma Gramma. This is how we have all referred to her since then. Her children, their spouses, her grandchildren and great grandchildren all remember Gramma Gramma.

We, all of us, have our special memories. I can only relate some of my own…

I remember spending the weekend at her house. This was the house that her parents had owned before her; it had survived the Great Chicago Fire. When you entered off the street you had to walk down a flight of stairs before you reached the front door. The reason for this was that there was a coal shed under the sidewalk. Upon entering the front door you went up a flight of stairs to their home. The lower level had two small apartments; one that my uncle lived in and the other they would rent out. Their space consisted of a kitchen, dining room, living room, 3 bedrooms and a bath. The rooms were not large, in fact they were quite small. The bedrooms did not have doors on them nor closets. Though I comprehend how small they were now, as a child they were less so.

I remember going to mass on Sunday and not understanding anything because it was in Latin; and having to have something on my head. And as much as those masses meant to her I also remember that she would let me bring my doll or a toy because she knew I was bored.

I remember that she would let me eat anything I wanted up to a half hour before dinner, even if it meant I didn’t eat dinner. And if I decided I didn’t like what was for dinner, she would make her special pancakes for me.

But the one thing that I remember the most as a child was lying in bed on those hot and humid Chicago summer nights, with no air conditioning or fan to cool you off, and her telling me a story. I admit I can’t remember much about those stories, I just remember that feeling of being loved and safe and feeling like I was the only one that mattered at the time.

So now as an adult, at the beginning of each summer when I’m not quite ready to turn the air on and lie in bed with a slight film of sweat, I look back at those nights with her so long ago. I forget the heat and that I'm slightly uncomfortable. I forget the worries of the day and what tomorrow will bring. I start to drift off to a place where I feel safe and loved and think of her, my Gramma Gramma.


Anonymous said...

I so loved hearing this story about your Gramma Gramma and the house she lived in. What wonderful memories to have!

CK said...

"Put enough flour to make a dough" -- that's my favorite memory. I still can't make her kolacky recipe!

Willie G said...

I came here from Coalminers Granddaughter, my first visit. I have enjoyed your writing. I will return.

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

What a wonderful post, hon. I wish I could have met your Gramma Gramma. Both of my grandmothers had passed before my birth and from what I've heard from other family members, I would have loved them both. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Oh baby, take me home why don't you? Home to long, hot, humid summers in Chicago, sweating, turning the pillow over to the cool side, waiting - no hoping- for a breeze to come through the window screen.

Thanks, for the tickle to the remembery.

Anonymous said...

Gramma Gramma didnt pass away in 1981, I remember her and I was born in 1982! Did you mean 91? Either way I'm now craving her peach pierogies!!

CK said...

She passed October 12, 1992—I still have the holy card from her service.

Badass Geek said...

I lost my grandfather last summer while on vacation. The night he died, I had a dream where he came and rested his hand on my shoulder, and smiled at me. He then turned around and walked away. I think of that dream as his way of saying "goodbye" since I was so far away from home at the time.

Expat No. 3699 said...

They are great memories!

No, me either...I use your recipe.

Willie G:
Thanks for stoppin'.

I'm sorry you weren't able to get to know your grandparents.

Yep, turning the pillow...I still do that.

Fraughter and CK:
Yes you are right. I typed this late at night and who knows where 1981 came from.

Badass Geek:
I'm sorry for the loss of your grandfather and yes, I think he was saying goodbye to you.

Anonymous said...

In tears here. I miss Gramma Gramma. And I knew 1981 was wrong, cuz my mom died in '87 and Gramma Gramma was still alive. Can you imagine burying your daughter? I always felt bad for her that that happened that way.
Remember when we used to go around the neighborhood saying we were ants and needed a coffin to the dude who ran the funeral home, and acting like retards so people passing by would give us money. HA! Good times Cuz, good times!

Expat No. 3699 said...

cuz'n carol:
I seriously do not remember doing that. Maybe that was you and cuz'n Ann?

Anonymous said...

Actually I think it mostly me and Ken and Jimmy. It was huge fun - ya shoulda come with us.

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic story about your Gramma Gramma. and so well told.

Isn't it amazing how nicknames come to fruition that way.

I couldnt say grandma when I was little either. I called my grandmother MANGA and as a result so did my whole family.

Anonymous said...

That's great that you had a special thing going with your Grandma. I often think back on mine as well. Never got to know either of my Grandpas, though. One died before I was born and the other not long after. Funny how us guys tend to drop dead before you women.

Expat No. 3699 said...

Meleah Rebeccah:
MANGA...I love it!

Richard Whackman:
One of my grandfathers died before I was born. The other, Grandpa Joe, I did get to know and I feel blessed.

Megan said...

I love the memory of you going to mass with your "Gramma Gramma"--such a cute name by the way. My mother has already said she wants a fun, upbeat name for her when my children can talk! I've always thought "wee-wee" was comical, I may make them call her that. :0)

Expat No. 3699 said...

I chose the name my grandchildren would call me before the first one was born. My son-in-law's parents were already known as 'Grandma and Grandpa", so I wanted to be known as something different. I chose Nana. My Fraughter teases that I didn't want to be called Grandma, but that is the farthest thing from the truth. I couldn't wait to be a grandparent!

Anonymous said...

I, too, am of Polish descent. Love the memories.



Michael C said...

My grandmother taught me how to cuss, gamble and the rules of NBA basketball. She isn't traditional, but I lovely here dearly. I think I will call her now.

Expat No. 3699 said...

According to my family, I am probably 98% polish, but contrary to popular belief, I can change a light bulb without help.

Michael C:
I like the sounds of your grandma...and yes, you should pick up the phone right now!

Eva said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing that memory! And thank you for visiting me through Michael C. :) I see your comments on his blog all the time.