Friday, September 12, 2014

Barbara Paull: What Aunt Helen told me about the Little Mother

The Little Mother was my great grandmother (mother's father's mother), my mom's grandma, my grandma's mother in law, my grandpa's mom, and Barbara's great aunt.

Aunt Helen was my grandma (mother's mother) and Barbara's aunt. Uncle Jim was my grandfather and Barbara's uncle.

What the Little Mother Ate
She was short and thin, very tiny, but strong).   In the morning she used to eat oatmeal, but later she stopped because she said the oatmeal stuck to the pot and made it hard to clean.  So then she changed to kasha, which she cooked with butter.  She made something she called cuytr (sp.?) of one cup coffee, a mixture of one cup water and one cup of milk, into which she stirred two spoons full of coffee. She drank one cup at breakfast and one cup later in the morning.  She ate no meat or fish.

For lunch she would have more coffee with perhaps a slice of toast with a piece of cheese.  For dinner she might have an egg or a mashed potato and some tea.

She read the Forward every day and especially a column by  some doctor who answered questions and gave answers about health.  If the doctor would say, You shouldn’t eat this or that because it’s bad for the kidneys, or People with heart trouble should avoid thus and so, she would stop eating it.  She followed his directions for every illness.

How she came to live with Helen and Jim:
The Little Mother had gone to Altoona for a visit with Aunt Mary, and she developed a cyst or growth on her urinary passage.  Because of that, it was painful to urinate.  So Aunt Mary took her to a doctor.  The doctor said it was a result of old age and that nothing could be done about it.  But the Little Mother was no fool or ignorant woman.  She called the doctor a “carnaval.”  In Russian that refers to someone who castrates bulls to make them oxen.  Aunt Mary was so embarrassed, but at least the doctor didn’t know Russian.  So she came to us in New York and I took her to my gynecologist who said it could be burned off with some acid. He did it in his office, but it wasn’t completely successful, so she went into the hospital for a little operation.  Oh, she was so happy there, so much attention.  Instead of staying for one week,, she stayed in for two.  And when she was discharged we couldn’t just send her back to her little apartment, so she came to us. At that time, we lived across the street. We had two bedrooms, but only one bathroom. If I wanted to clean it, she would be so worried that she would need the bathroom, she’d bang on the door.  So I went to the agent for the building and said, “Please, my mother-in-law is with me.  I need an apartment with two bathrooms.”  He didn’t have one in that building, so he said he’ll give us one across the street.  We carried all the small things across the street ourselves.  Aunt Mary came to help us move.  And then we got a truck and movers for the furniture.  It only took them two hours to move us across the street, but they had a minimum charge of four hours, so after they finished the job, they just sat out on the curb. We had to pay them for the two hours of just sitting on the curb.

What the Little Mother Wore:
The Little Mother was very vain.  She had very fancy clothes.  Aunt Mary used to send all of her fancy dresses when she had tired of them.  Aunt Mary was the same height, only much bigger, so the Little Mother would take all the clothes in on the sides.

Once before she came to live with us, she became very sick.  At that time the city had an epidemic of bronchial pneumonia.  She got a hold of her son Ben, who lived near her in the Bronx, and he sent her in a cab to us.  I called the doctor to come amd when he arrived, she said she wasn’t ready.  She always wore heavy underwear, but she didn’t want the doctor to see such underwear, so she asked him to wait.  Finally, she came in with a fancy robe and her lace underwear.  The doctor said, “Well, that’s very nice, but you’ll have to take it off.  How can I examine you with so many clothes on?  You’ve been to a doctor before, you know not to wear all that.”

She just loved to dress up, and she especially loved big hats.  Aunt Mary would send her fancy hats.  In the ebening I remember she’d put on a white suit, with a lace blouse, and white shoes and a big hat and gloves and walk down to the corner.  It was the only place she had to go, so she’d dress up like that just to get the Forward!

Told to me by my aunt, Helen Glaser

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