My great-grandmother, Grismamma, was a petite woman who spoke no English. She made the enormous, and I am sure, frightening, sacrifice of coming over here, to America, and leaving all behind in southern Germany. Her real name was Wilhelmina Carolina Anna Adelheidt Wieckert. And that was BEFORE she married. As small children, we had her long name memorized.
When I knew her, she was old as old can be, and I was barely over four years. She lived with her daughter, my grandmother, “Laura” and we saw her every time we went there. I never saw her walk. She had to be helped with everything. We were not allowed to speak to her, except to tell her “Good-night.” I guess she knew that much English. We also had to be quiet and polite around Grismamma.
One amazing thing about Grismamma, is that she had hair long enough to reach the floor. Yet her hair was so thin, she kept it all, all in a bun about the size of a golf ball..
I think she died when I was about four. I did not attend the funeral. Probably I was too young.
I have one thing that used to belong to Grismamma. It is a small, orange sherbet glass with a wax orange in it:
Grismamma received this glass or cup as a gift when she was 13, and kept it safe for the rest of her long life. When she died, my mom got the cup and kept it safe for her whole life. Now it is mine. It lives in a little box in the top cabinets in my kitchen.
I think it is old.
But I want it to become even older. I want the memory of my Grismamma to go on and on, until time comes to an end, because she was mine and was ours. I want someone far in the future to be able to touch the precious thing my Grismamma touched and know someone else was here, once, and then went on, someone who sacrificed to make something better for those who were to come.
And to be thankful.
I want my children and their descendents to know I valued someone small and frail, who borrowed the air we now borrow, and then gave it back.
As we someday must.