We lived in a four-family house in a small, working-class suburb just north of Boston. My Gramma lived downstairs from us, my aunt and uncle lived in the apartment next to hers, we lived above her apartment and the last one was rented out. The house had originally been owned by the mayor of the city many, many years before and was a single family home before it was turned into a four-apartment house.
As a youngster, I was always at Gramma's, my mother's mother. I got a lot of exercise running up and down the back stairs several times a day from our apartment to hers for one thing or another. She had a large stuffed rocking chair in the kitchen. Who had rocking chairs in their kitchen? She also had a small icebox in the kitchen and I remember watching the 'iceman' come to deliver a block of ice when needed. Wonderful aromas emanated from her little pantry where the cupboards, stove, sink and a regular, but small refrigerator were located.
When I was about eight years old, my mother asked if I would sleep downstairs every night to "keep Gramma company." I eagerly agreed to it. Gramma had a daybed in the living room and her bedroom was in the front of the house. I loved sleeping down there. Every night, Gramma would walk through the living room on her way to her bedroom, softly reciting evening prayers, especially the Shema as she went. And I would listen very carefully trying to remember the Hebrew words, not really knowing what they were or what they meant.... only that I knew they meant something really special to her by the way she said them. But what I strained to hear and try to repeat to myself was really a corrupt version of the actual Hebrew words. It isn't until decades later that I found out how the actual Hebrew was supposed to be pronounced. I remember the moment when I realized the connection between her words of prayer and the real words of the Shema and how, all those years, I had been saying them so wrong!
Every morning, Gramma made breakfast for me and every morning all I ever wanted was her "finekochen", an egg scrambled with cottage cheese and a glass of milk. She would sit with me while I ate and we would talk about lots of things. Some of those conversations included discussions about the news of the day. That was a treasured time and provides warm memories that I hold close to my heart of someone I loved very much and who loved me so.
Her apartment was a place of safety and refuge whenever I got into trouble upstairs. And she had good hiding places, too! Gramma's house was my second house, a place that was always filled with good food and lots of love. I know I've written about a bit of this before but, as I get older, I treasure even more what I've experienced in my life. And those memories of my Gramma are some of the sweetest.