The Most Beautiful Woman In Town

My grandmother was born in Biano, Italy and when she was 16 my grandfather came into the town and she was the most beautiful woman in the town. And he met her, he fell in love with her, and he came to the United States.

Two of her older brothers were already in New York and they called for her to come and stay with them, and that’s when she met up with my grandfather again and got married. She got married at 17, had four daughters and ended up working in a sweatshop in Manhattan making dresses. 

She taught all of her daughters how to sew and only learned English as she went around the city. At home they would speak Italian and my mother would answer her in English to try and help her understand more of of the English language. 

She was a very kind person and she used to talk about how she would spend hours and hours on the sewing machine making beautiful lace dresses for Saks 5th Avenue. She taught all of her daughters how to sew and as I was growing up my mother would make dresses for us. And it was a skill that I probably should have learned, I wish I did learn it. But it was definitely a trait that helped her survive living in New York.

Goodnight, Blue Eyes

Hi, so my grandmother was probably way before her time.

She was divorced in the early 1940s and she went to work. And she always told me to be self sufficient and to make sure that I was able to stand on my own feet and be able to support myself.

She worked in a restaurant supply company called “The Famous Kitchen,” and they would supply different kinds of food to Broadway actors and they also would send stuff across the country.

And she told me that Jimmy Durante was a fan of hers and she had beautiful blue eyes. She would always say that when he said “Goodnight, Blue Eyes” at the end of each of his shows that he was talking to her. 

Yiayia

I lived with my grandparents for an entire year when I was in Kindergarten, and my Yiayia took the opportunity to spoil me like it was her job. Every. single. morning. before school she would pour me a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal. But, before pouring the milk in, she would pick out the marshmallows from the oat pieces one-by-one so I could take the marshmallows in a plastic baggy for snack time at school. Looking back on it, it seems like such a minor, absurd thing to do. But, to take the time out of her day and do that every morning means that she must have loved me tremendously.

Yiayia

We all remember Sunday lunches,

When all the little cousins would gather in bunches.

Between you and Pappou

No one could cook better than the two of you.

_

It killed you to see him go,

And you wouldn’t cook anymore for reasons we know.

After that things fell apart,

The little cousins didn’t see each other, which hurt your heart.

_

They say time heals the wound,

And so the peace among the family resumed.

Then life passed in a whirl,

God blessed you with a great granddaughter, a beautiful baby girl.

_

When your voice started to slur,

We guessed a stroke, from what we could infer.

Your diagnoses turned out to be ALS,

From then on our lives became a mess.

_

Every day we miss your voice,

To hear it once more we all would rejoice,

It’s hard to watch you every day,

And see you slowly slip away.

Live more, Clean less.

My grandma was born in 1929 and was married after the end of WWII. She and my grandpa bought their first house in 1951 and pretty much every week since then she spent her Saturday morning cleaning. But not, not like the regular kind of cleaning. I mean, she would do normal stuff, like sweep the floors, and mop the kitchen, and clean the bathrooms… But she would also literally drag every piece of furniture out of her living room and into the kitchen so she could properly vacuum the carpet.

I lived with her for a few months when I was about 10 years old and every Saturday, I would have to scramble over the chairs and coffee tables to get to the kitchen. Because, of course Grandma was up at the crack of dawn to clean. Then I would have my cereal and Grandma would drag all of the furniture back into the living room and put everything back in its place. 

And my mom is also someone who cleans every Saturday, but she doesn’t quite go to the extent of moving furniture, but she does the rest. And when I got married and we got our first house, I pretty much spent every Saturday cleaning too.

Several years later, after I got married, my grandma and I were chatting on the phone. And she probably would have been around 75 at that time and she said, “You know… I don’t have many regrets in my life… I really don’t. But if I could do it all over again, I would spend less time cleaning.” 

And I thought, “Hmm. If that’s Grandma’s biggest regret, maybe I should pay attention to that.” So I cut back on how often I cleaned. And it turns out that she had a point. I think about that piece of advice a lot and really enjoy taking Saturdays off every so often and doing something for myself. So thanks grandma for that piece of advice that you gave to us way back in the day. 

Hey Irene! Gimme A Peach!

My name is Juliana Tegan and this story is about my grandmother, whose name was Irene. 

My grandmother was born Irena Keller, in Romania in a town outside of Transylvania um- sometime in the nineteen-teens, I can’t remember the exact year. And she was born to an Orthodox Jewish family that was fairly well off and well known in town. She was a precocious sort of wild daughter though- she was the, I think the second to youngest of four girls. And uh- she used to tell me and my mother and my sister stories about sneaking out of her family’s house late at night to go visit the nearby Gypsy camps – actual Gypsies that would travel around the country and the area – when she was a child. She would go and watch them dance and eat and you know want to participate in their wild experiences- just to give you a sense of what kind of person she was. 

She was quite outspoken and very bright, um- and a she and her family moved to the United States, to New York, in the mid-1930s. And she- a few years later, she met my grandfather who was a Sicilian Catholic and they married- which was quite unorthodox at the time. She decided to leave her faith and marry into this pretty traditional Catholic family, which did not go over very well with her parents and members of my grandfather’s family. So she was definitely and independent woman, independent minded and did things her own way. 

My grandparents settled in New York, had three children and time went by and uh- many years later, all three of their children had moved out to California, including my mother and my dad. And my grandparents, Irene and her husband Nate, my grandpa, like many Italian and Jewish people from New York, had decided to move down to Florida- to retire. And they were living in Florida and realized that all three of their children were living in California, so they started making annual trips in their RV out to California to visit their children- and the grandkids were happening, and more and more were being born so they were coming more and more often. 

Like I mentioned earlier, my grandmother was quite outspoken and, could be kind of a loudmouth at times- so there were periods during these trips across country when she and my grandfather would need to take some space from each other. You know being cooped up in an RV for, you know, at least a week at a time, driving cross-country to visit your family would definitely drive anybody crazy. And uh- considering the relationship that they had, I’m not surprised that they would take long stretches of maybe not speaking to each other. 

So, this story is slightly different depending on who tells it. But, when my grandmother would tell it, this is how it would go. 

She and my grandfather were driving cross-country to visit their kids, sometime in the early 90s- and somewhere in the middle, in one of the plains states, they had gotten into an argument about- you know who knows what. And my grandmother had gone to the back of the RV to lay down and just have some alone time away from my granddad. Well, my grandfather pulled into a gas station to fill up on gas and whatever else. And while he was outside, handling the gas, my grandmother got out of the RV and went into the gas station to use the restroom. My grandfather didn’t notice and got back into the car- into the RV- and drove off. And, because they hadn’t been speaking for, you know, an hour- a couple of hours or so, and kind of in the middle of an argument- he didn’t think anything of it that my grandfather- my grandmother- was you know, he thought, quiet in the back of the RV, maybe laying down. 

He went- he traveled over 100 miles, at which point he started to get hungry. And so he says, “Hey Irene. Gimme a peach.” No response. Waits a minute, tries again. “Hey Irene! Gimme a peach!” No response. He tries one more time before he looks over his shoulder and realizes she isn’t there. And she hasn’t been for quite some time. He tries to think back to the last time that they had stopped, and he realizes that he’s not quite sure where he lost her. 

Meanwhile, my grandmother is at this gas station without her purse, without her wallet, without anything on her, stranded- thinking that her husband, my grandfather, has abandoned her once and for all, and left her there in the middle of- probably Kansas or Oklahoma- to start a new life for herself. That wasn’t the case. And my grandfather turned around and drove back, to find my grandmother in the gas station, chatting up the gas station attendants, making new friends, and of course telling stories about the ridiculous things that she and my grandfather would get into.

So, that’s a story that we like to tell in my family. And we always call it, “Hey Irene! Gimme a peach!” And I hope you like it. 

Sympathy for Farmers

So one story that my grandmother told me when I was a little kid was a- originated from poetry from Tang Dynasty, which is like, the very like, poetry that I learn at a really early time- because every parents would teach their kids to learn this. And the- in Chinese, the poetry- sounds like something- like this [speaks in Chinese].

So if we want to translate that, it means like, it’s super hot in the middle of the noon. And some farmers are doing like, a lot of weeding. And, they are sweating under the sun. And, do you know that the food on our plate and each grain was hard earned- come from hard work.

So, my grandmother would repeat this poetry every time when we were having dinner so she said, like don’t have any leftovers after you finish each meal. So like sometimes, when I was young I like having some- several pieces of rice left. So she would force me to like finish them [laughs], so that the plate is completely clean. And at first I don’t understand, I was like she is so hard on me- pushing me to do this. But, after I grow up a little bit, I found that this is kind of like a polite thing to do. And paying appreciation to the hard work of people. And, showing sympathy for them.

So if I become a grandmother sometime [laughs] I would teach my grandkids the same thing. And- pushing them to do the same thing.

The Samatella Story

Long time ago there was this lady and they call Samatella. Samatella she was crochet and she lost the crochet and she look look look for find the crochet and she find pennies. So, she said, “What I gonna buy with pennies? I gonna buy…” you know-, “plum. There is the pit and they choke me. I could buy nothing with no inside pit. So I decide to buy lipstick. I went to the store and I buy lipstick and I get inside the house and then I got the little chair and I sat down outside.” 

So- and then after a little while then, you know, the rooster pass and he said, “Oh Samatella you look beautiful!” 

And Samatella said, “I look beautiful because I want to get married.” 

And then the rooster said, “Can you want me?” 

I said, “Ok, let me so how you sing.” 

He said, “Kee-kee-ke-kee.” 

“Oh no no no no, I don’t like you. I don’t like you. I don’t like how you sing!”

So- anyway- after a little while, then you know- the lamb pass. He said, “Samatella you look beautiful!”

Said, “I look beautiful because I want to get married. And you want me?”

“Yes, I want you.”

“Let me see how you sing.”

And then he said, “Baa-baaa.” 

“Oh no no no no, I no like how you sing! I can’t married you.”

So, after a little while the jack-ass pass. He said, “Oh Samatella, you look beautiful!”

“I look beautiful because I want to get married. And you want me?”

“Yeah I want you.”

“But first I want to see how you sing.”

He said, “Hee-haw hee-haw hee-haw.”

“Oh no no no no, I no like how you sing! I no like how you sing!”

So, poor Samatella. After a little while then the mouse pass. He said, “Oh Samatella, you look beautiful!”

“I look beautiful because I want to get married. Oh- you want me?”

“Oh yes, I want you.”

“Let me see how you sing.”

And then the mouse said, “Eeep-eep-eep-eep-eep.”

“Oh I love you, I love you. I want to marry you.”

Okay. So- they got married and then you know they was on a Sunday and Samatella she went to church. When she went to church she had a- some pot in the top of the stove. And with beans. And Samatella said to the mouse, “No go open up, because then you go inside then- you know- you can’t get out!” So, the stupid mouse he stay- and he said- and he went to open the pot and *brrrrrrr* he went inside the pot. He try with the little feet to come out and he can’t come out. 

After the mass finish Samatella she went back home. When she went back home then- you know- the door they was closed. And Samatella she keep said to the mouse, “Open the door!” but the mouse don’t open the door because he was dead. So she went on the top of the roof and she o- she come out, down to the bedroom. And she look all over. She look all over and then she could find no mouse. 

“Mouse mouse mouse?” She look all over in the bedroom, she look under the table. Then she think about it and she said “Oh my god, I bet he went in the pot.” She open up the pot and the mouse, they was dead inside the pot.

So poor mouse! Samatella she pick up the chair again and she went outside. And she was cry, cry, cry. And the mouse- you know- after a little while then the lamb pass.

“Samatella, why you cry for?” 

“I cry because I lost my mouse.”

And the lamb- no, what it was- he had some grape. 

She said, “Oh boy, can you give me some grape?”

“Oh no, you no want to marry me. And you no get a grape from me. Goodbye!” Then he left.

Then after a little while, the rooster pass with some more- fruit. And he said, “Oh, Samatella why you cry for?”

“Oh, I cry because I lost my mouse. Oh, give me some fruit.”

“No, you no want to marry me, I no give nothing to you.”

So Samatella- the rooster took off.

So, anyway, this is the Samatella story. 

“So what happened to Samatella?”

Eh?

“What happened to Samatella?”

I don’t know what happened to Samatella. Samatella [says something in Italian]. Samatella she cry- she took the hair- pull out the hair. And that’s all- nobody care about Samatella.