From Generation to Generation
My maternal grandmother was German, but born and raised in Hungary before she immigrated to this country with her family at the age of 13. She was smart and she was tough, but she had a soft heart. She wasn’t the storybook grandmother, baking fresh cookies for our visits or playing games with us. She always worked hard. She smoked, drank diet soda by the gallon and wore make-up everyday, even with her house dresses. She outlived three husbands, but her first was the absolute love of her life. I loved her tales of their courtship and life together over 30 years until a heart attack took him a few months before my parents were married. Had she been of a mind to be a writer, the tale of their life and times would have made for a wonderful, romantic and interesting book. I could and did listen happily to those stories for endless hours.
Grandma told tales of gypsies who roamed the countryside in her native Hungary. I never knew if those stories were true, but when my cousins and I misbehaved, we were threatened with being sold to the gypsies. None of us kids ever wanted to chance it, but it became a sort of family legend. My mother used the same threat and I, as a parent, did too until my kids were almost ready to go into junior high school.
I spent the first 28 years of my working life in the food service industry, doing everything from waiting tables to cooking to managing restaurants. My children used to feel sorry for the people who worked for me, and my staff would feel sorry for my children as they teased me about being “mean.” As a single parent with four young children, there were times when my kids would have to come to work with me, at least for a few hours if a babysitter were sick or I was called back to work unexpectedly. One afternoon the kids were there while I was in a staff meeting. I was managing a Burger King, and some of the young workers volunteered to entertain my children when they were on breaks, which I thought was nice.
But as soon as I came out of my meeting I felt as though I were made of Velcro. All four of my children, even my cool-in-the-face-of-everything oldest child stuck to me so tightly I couldn’t take a step without tripping. Trailing them were three young crew members—one of the young ladies who had volunteered to be part of the entertainment committee and two of the newest employees, a striking brother and sister with black hair and eyes almost as black; they claimed to be gypsies, and were proud of it. They were just coming on duty and had been introduced to my kids.
My youngest son, Keith, suddenly wailed, “We’ve been good, honest!” I was perplexed. “Why do you want to give us away; we don’t want to go,” my four clamored at once. The teens were staring at me, their dark eyes brimming with outrage. I wasn’t sure whether it was feigned or not, but as the pieces connected in my brain I burst out in laughter. My children gushed showers of relieved tears once I reassured them that no one was taking them away.
My young Roma friends were not so easily dealt with. I had to explain my grandmother and even called my mother who laughingly assisted. But that day, I learned a lesson, a lesson in parenting, humanity and humility. I had never imagined that I would really end up knowing Roma, but I did. For weeks after, I was treated to a gentle and genuine history of their clan during our time together at work.
The next time my grandmother came to visit, and began issuing admonishments for bad behavior that ended with threats to be sold to “gypsies,” my daughters gently sat her down and proceeded to tell her about the Roma they knew, and how nice the people are, that they never buy children and how they came to know these things. Grandma and I shared a look of bemused resignation before ending a long family tradition that started before she was ever born. However, my ten-year-old granddaughter, Sam, has been known to ask if it is true that I threatened to sell her mother and aunt and uncles to the “gypsies” and laughs with delight at such a possibility.
At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs, one cat and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” She can be reached at