Sunday, October 10, 2010

My grandma done told me...

...When you look good, you feel mighty fine.

I've been scanning old family slides for my father's slide of the family, and I cam across a box of outtakes - the slides that never made it to the carousel.  This was in them.  Its of my father's mother, my Grandma Rae.  And this slide is so unlike anything I have ever seen of her before.  And I love it.

My Grandmother was born in Russia, near what is now the border between Lithuania and Latvia.  Grandma's village was west of the border, my grandfather's people were from just east of the border, near Dvinsk.  They were married in 1905 and Grandpa left for the United States where he would work, earn some money and and then send for my grandmother when he had the money saved up.  He ended up having to send for my grandmother and their infant - he left not knowing that my grandmother was pregnant.  Had she told him, he would have stayed, and that wouldn't have been good.  Lots of Russian Jews were getting out, and for good reason - there was political chaos beginning to brew in the old country and historically the Jew's always came out on the short end of the stick, and that stick usually had a very sharp point.

Anyway, when he sent enough money, she and my aunt - who was an infant - made the crossing from "the Old Country" and landed at Ellis Island.  I've never thought of my grandmother as being "processed" by immigration, but that is what happened.  She spoke no English, she could not read or write, but she pushed through with it because that was what had to happen,  after three days she made it through.  

And the reward?  Reunited with my grandfather, they moved to Cleveland and had a very large family.  Everyone, including my grandmother learned to read and write, and she learned some English along the way.  She remained a very devoted wife, an observant Jew and she was a really good grandmother.  I just imagine what it was like to live a life that went from tar paper shack to a house in Shaker Heights.  Life is amazing.

This is why I love this picture.  Here's a woman who risked everything, her home, her cultural identity - everything, but she made it. Not only did she live to tell of it, but she allowed herself to have a minute or two of fun along the way. And she kept some of her attitude around as well.


  1. she looks adorable. she also looks as if she was compressing, something many of us jews do quite well.

  2. We're both lucky to have had, as you say, "a really good grandmother."

    And out of my many cousins, I was her favourite so you can imagine the good times we had together.

  3. My only regret was not knowing her, as a person, better. I was a late in life baby for my parents, and my father was her youngest child. So I never enjoyed the opportunity to be one on one with her and talk about her. Still, she was a lovely woman, always slathering me in grandma hugs and kisses.