When the tradition first began, Steven and I used to volunteer several mornings each week, and then Steven would often get a call to run over and help take them down in the evening. Now, there are so many people who want to help that we’ve bowed out to let the newer residents take our places. But I still get a tear in my eye and a knot in my chest when I drive by City Hall and see all those flags waving in the breeze. It is both heartwarming and inspiring.So today, while most Americans were enjoying a holiday from their jobs, Steven and I were working our asses off on a home improvement project. Actually, Steven worked his ass off…I only worked off one cheek. But it should count as equal because my one cheek is the same size as his ass, right? Now, I’m trying to rehydrate with quarts of ice water and a martini chaser, because the olives replenish the salts lost in sweat. (That makes the martini a medicinal thing.) And, I’m reflecting on how free I am. I’m free to work on a holiday, and free to collect unemployment while I search for work on a work day. I’m free to consider all the possibilities of what I want to be when I grow up. Albeit, again, I’m still quite free to branch off into yet another direction and have a new adventure. In what other country are people able to have all of that?
As crazy as it is, I’m free to make my husband take on a pretty physical painting job, two days before the CT scan that will let us know if his pesky little cancer cells are trying to make another play for the end zone. I’m free to assume that it will all work out and I don’t have to worry about the cancer overshadowing the painting project, and I’m WAY on board with that thought. And I most happily free to take all of my freedom for granted most of the time. It is part of my world, always has been and always will be..sounds just like Anderson Cooper opening up about being gay! Is it like that in other countries as well? I’m guessing, not so much!
So the train of thought, or the martini, made me start thinking about my Grandma. My mother’s mother was Hungarian. She came to this country, speaking Hungarian, and having to learn a whole new world and a whole new way of doing things. And she did. So my Mom could be American.Grandma had a Hungarian accent that was funny to me as a kid. Mom’s name is Marion, but Grandma ALWAYS called her Mariska (Mud-dish-ka) and Aunt Irene was ALWAYS Iranka (EE-rain-ka)…or at least that’s what it sounded like to me. I remember the first time I saw Zsa Zsa Gabor on a talk show. She sounded just like Grandma, yet I could never imagine Grandma wearing tons of sequins, with big bleached hair and thick false eyelashes and carrying on. But they could have come over on the same boat! And as a kid I was both amazed and expectantly accepting that you could be anything when you grew up…even if people could barely understand you.
My parents and I lived with Grandma and Grandpa for a while before I started kindergarten. So I have some vague and probably incorrect perceptions of the immigrant lifestyle. My Mom and Dad were completely American, and there was never any question or confusion in my mind about what I was. I can remember Mom listening to Grandma in Hungarian, but answering in English. There were a few words I remember clearly. If Grandma asked if I wanted tojás (toy-osh) for breakfast, I was getting egg…scrambled.
I was Grandpa’s little shadow and used to hang out with him as a little one. Grandma use to call him Ember (Em-Bare) and I always thought that was how you said Andrew in Hungarian. I was a teenager when I discovered it meant “man” or “husband”. That’s a little window into the old country, huh?I called him Pop and we were kind of partners in crime. I can’t ever remember him saying “no” to me, so he was was great to be with. He drove a bus. He worked driving a trolley, which I don’t remember, but I do remember him modernizing to be a bus driver. He had the early, early shift, so even on days off, he was an early riser. And if I was awake, I would be at his side. I’m horrified to remember that we used to sneak this thing called kocsonya (ku-cheen-a is how I remember saying it.) for breakfast. Grandpa loved it, and I loved him, so we ate it together. I gag now thinking how the heck they could let me eat pigs feet jello. I swear. I ate some kind of clear aspic with a congealed red covering from the paprika (pap-ree-kash)…with smoked piggy feet sticking out in the middle of the bowl. And we used to fight for the feet. EWWWWW! I’m a freakin’ American. WTF?
If I was Aesop, I’d be looking for the moral of this story, and I’m gonna go for it. I love being American. I love that I’m free to follow whatever hair-brained scheme that I might come up with for the next part of my life. I love that I’m secure in knowing that we have wonderful doctors and medical people taking care of us. I love that I even though I graduated from college, my daughter is still smarter then me, with a masters degree and a better wardrobe. And I particularly love that I don’t have to eat pig feet jello.
Happy…happy…happy 4th of July!
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