If I’ve never told you about my Mom’s Mom, my Grandmother Tata…then you’ve probably never met me…for her name is forever escaping my lips as stories of my past and the well of my dearest memories are drawn from.
She has done so much that would give chapters the kind of allure and beauty that would both inspire and haunt us to aspire to Love on others with everything we have, and, as was often the case with her, everything she did not have going in her favor…
Tata’s life is among many things, a romance novel…a tale of Love…the kind of romance novel that many of us will only ever read about, if even that.
If her life read like the back of a book, some of what you’d read might be as follows…This is the story of two lovers separated by two continents; driven from their homes by two different wars; forced across two oceans, ordered into one fated spot on the East coast of America, and squeezed into one tiny classroom where they would both learn English, and forevermore, that they were always meant to find much more than a new life in this the land of opportunity. They were meant to find their forever.
This is the kind of story that Hollywood tries to capture everytime a ‘Pride and Prejudice’, a ‘P.S. I love You,’ a Painted Veil, or a movie like the Notebook fills the screen.
After the American chapters of her fairytale began, Tata then defied every legislative measure ever taken to harness immigrants due to their inability to produce a quality lifestyle here in the States; one in which they give back to this country in gratitude for allowing them to call this side of the ocean home.
She among a myriad of things, established the first organization in California (Clinic Ole) to allow immigrants to legally follow through on all the processes in order to attain permanent, uncontestable status as American citizens. During that time she took payments of chickens, soups, and sometimes money, for her otherwise expensive services…she often remarked to me,
“I was never going to be rich, and I never wanted to be…but, I did eat like a queen.”
She has fought for years on the National School-board Council to ensure that the education that she was not given in many ways, but was still able to extract from this capable country could in fact be reached by all of its children…
“The justice to have such options (education) is as important to me as making the decisions in our lives to take advantage of such a gift.”
I could go on and on about my beloved Tata and Papa, as he certainly has a story of immigrant-inspiration all his own…even how he to this day cuts my Tata ‘Red Delicious Apples’ in the shape of a spiralling heart. It appears that turn-of-the-century-Germans can have a bit of a soft spot.
But this blog is not a futile attempt to cram together all the material that is better suited for a biography/novel one day soon about my beloved grandparents…this blog is instead about something I jokingly, and somewhat seriously mentioned and believed would happen about 15 years ago…coming true 3 days ago.
I remember sitting with my Mom in Tata’s computer room, sort of listening in on my Tata talk away undoubtedly some legislation she was trying to see through. I remember listening to my Mom talk quietly to me beneath Tata’s elevated voice filled with salutations, laughing and active listening…”Your Grandmother is so great…I hope I am just as wonderful at her age.”
I remember thinking to myself, “people should meet her…important people…world leaders.” I did not of course understand the scope of my Tata’s influence, but as far as I was convinced, it was currently orbiting the moon with Nasa’s approval, helping run the country in the President’s office, and slowly being planned to be remembered by being etched into the side of Rushmore. I thought to myself…”The President should meet her…in fact, he should wait in line to meet her.”
Well, fast forward a good decade and a half, and wouldn’t you know that’s exactly what happened. My Tata hopped out of her car in front of the Napa Valley Opera House to meet none other than Bill Clinton last Tuesday afternoon. She showed up a half hour early “to get a good seat,” she said. Oh Tata and her naivety sometimes…it’s innocent and honest and is something we can all learn from. She walked up and down the line and after putting together than the line was nearly 3 blocks long at least, she decided to walk to the front and ask someone right near the entrance if they would mind if she could stand with them in their place…the woman coldly, although understandably told her, “yeah, actually I do mind. I’ve been waiting here for over three hours.”
It took all of a split second for the beautiful opera-house doors aligning the entrance to swing opn in her favor; a long-time friend of hers waved her in and said, “you do not have to wait.”
Now here’s the kicker…after finishing his speech, Mr. Clinton made his way down the aisle shaking a few hands along the way, upon which he needed to wait just a moment to get to my Tata, as she was saying her hellos to everyone in the neighboring seats and around the former Mr. President.
And so, not to my surrpise, a president waited in line to shake my Tata’s hand…when all my Tata did was stand from where she was seated. She communicated how honored she felt to shake his hand, but many who know Tata would would instantly agree, twas Mr. Clinton who was the lucky one that evening.