and a hug.
Baba was always in the kitchen when we came to see her whether it was on Virginia Street in the early days or in the apartment building I lived in for 18+ years. She was always cooking.
Not only was Baba a wonderful cook, but Grandpa and her owned their own grocery when they finally arrived in Gary, Indiana. Grandpa was a butcher in Chicago first. I also forgot to mention in the last part that Grandpa Martin was in the Russian Navy, and we have pictures to prove that.
A new home was built in Gary before the Depression but was lost due to hard times. I remember them having a very small store in a bad part of town when I was very young. They lived behind the store and that's where I remember Baba most endearingly.
I was told she use to live upstairs for awhile but moved down to be behind the small grocery. I remember very vaguely that there was activity between the kitchen and the grocery shop with Baba or Grandpa going back and forth. As days wore on, Grandpa just sat in a chair in the kitchen and never said anything. I don't remember Grandpa talking to me, but we were encouraged to talk to him. Baba was still her pleasant self, always welcoming her grandchildren and cooking.
In the kitchen, Baba had a large set of windows where the table and chairs sat. The table was up next to the windows. Why? She had an array of African violets in all colors, growing their hearts out. It was a southern exposure--maybe the secret to African violets or was it just Baba?
One winter, she asked me to pick out one baby violet that I could choose to take home. Oh, my, what a treat--my own African violet. African violets have babies, you know. Take a leaf and immerse it in dirt, and a baby plant grows out of the leaf! (It only takes 2-4 weeks when I researched.). I took that plant she gave me and covered it with wax paper to make sure when I went out, the cold air would not kill it. I remember holding it so close and carefully and thinking, "It cannot die. I will get it home safely."
When I was older I tried to have a conglomeration of African violets in my bay window when raising my kids. I couldn't make them grow very long. I tried and tried, but they just didn't prosper in my care. That's why African violets still remind me of Baba. She was a special expert, and they are special plants.
The other natural item that reminded me of her was the herb dill. I wrote about dill a couple of years ago in my blog. I grow dill all over my gardens just to experience the smell and the remembrance of Baba.
Baba had a small garden in the back of her apartment that was all gated up. She grew a myriad of vegetables--tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beets, dill and probably more. I can still remember opening the gate to the garden and peering in, only to smell dill.
Plant some dill, and after a rain, just smell the air--stupendous!
When she finally moved into our apartment building, my Auntie Mary took care of her, and she still was cooking up a storm. She loved soups and making the most delicious hamburgers full of good things. She also made the best meatball soup with rice. I asked her for the recipe and she smiled and chuckled, "No recipe. I just make it." To this day, I still can't make that meatball soup like she did. Was it just a recipe or the woman behind the recipe? I think it was the woman.
I remember Baba.
Baba became bed-ridden due to her diabetes and died at the age of 91. I had been to college and married by this time. This was my grandmother of whom I knew so little.