Wednesday, February 10, 2010
My great-grandmother (on my mother's side) immigrated to the U.S.A from Hungary. We called her, "Ma." Ma was our babysitter when my mom went back to work part-time. Her neighborhood was full of Hungarian immigrants and Ma's two story home was like entering the outskirts of Budapest.
She was old world strict. To this day, my mother does not believe it when I tell her that she would chase my brother around the house with a stick when he misbehaved. Furthermore, she didn't always cook everything from scratch. Everyone in my family (except my brother and I) swears she fed us homemade Goulash and Chicken Paprika daily. We really had a bit more Swanson TV dinners. And although we may have danced to the Polka Variety Show once in a while, we spent a lot of the time watching (forbidden by my folks) afternoon soap operas with the television volume a notch below ear-shattering. (Ma was quite deaf.)
However, everyone would agree that Ma and all of her Hungarian girlfriends (Hunky Bubbas was the name we chose for them.) were the very best church going gossipers in town--a pious and well informed lot. They also seemed to primarily remember prayer vocabulary and naughty words in their mother tongue. (I still remember how to say God Bless You and dirty bottom in Hungarian.) The ladies wore big house dresses worn thin with age and never left home without securely tying a babushka under their chin. They were exceptional women. And they were so loved and now sorely missed.
As the generations pass, my mother and my aunts still make Hungarian pastries at Christmas time. But inevitably the culture gets watered down as the decades pass. It's hard to find a third generation Hungarian woman who scrubs her walls from top to bottom and never wears pants. But babushkas? Why not? They are so old school they continue to be cute--especially on small blonds with just a trace of Hungarian in the blood.
It's a pity that Ma isn't around to do a bit of babysitting. Georgia loved hearing about her Great-Great-Grandmother--even if she fussed when I tried to adjust those straps under her chin...but I'm not giving up. I also tried to teach her a few special words in Hungarian today. Naturally she adored that!