From Generation to Generation -- Warm Chestnuts
She wore a red babuska covering her long black hair that was pulled back into a bun tightly held with wooden combs. A shawl of black yarn covered her shoulders. Her hands red and rough looked years older than her 24 years. Her dress made of sacking came to the ankles--her shoes were homemade and thick stockings hung over them. She carried a basket made of straw that was filled with memories she was bringing to a new country--new life--new world--strange new world. For a moment she wished to be back in Minsk where everything was familiar and life had an order--a routine--taking care of the chickens and eggs and a garden that was real. But now nothing was real. She had spent weeks learning to write her name in english and to say,"Anna Bistrovich--I am 24 years--I was born when my brother died". Many times on the ship from Amsterdam she would think of Cousin Esther's wedding. She would think of the music--the man playing the violin--the men dancing with men and the women dancing with the women. What a feast they had - chicken and apples and chollah baked with honey just for special occasions. She could close her eyes and stll taste the sip of wine made from the grapes on the hill. That is all gone now but for the memories in her basket. A man in a soldier's uniform came over and spoke to her. He asked her the questions she had practiced and then she wrote her name. The soldier man frowned. Would he send her back to Russia? Her eyes filled with tears and then he said something she did not understand. He pointed to a doorway. She went through for a medical examination. A few minutes later the doctor smiled and handed her some papers and opened the door for her to a whole new world. There stood a man with a black coat and a black hat--gray hair and a very big smile. He said. Ï am your Uncle Josef and I will take you home after your long journey. Uncle Josef handed her a tiny American flag and hurried her outside to the warm sunshine. The street was filled with horses and carriages and people all dressed so good they all looked like they were going to a wedding. Uncle Josef stopped on the sidewalk where a man had a kettle filled with hot coals roasting chestnuts. He bought some and gingerly held the hot bag of chestnuts. Soon they walked to a bench by the side of the road and he motioned for her to sit down and he did the same. They shared the sun, the traffic noises and of course the hot chestnuts. Grandma thought as she put her basket of memories by her feet and took a warm chestnut-"perhaps this country will not be so bad". Grandma lived to see four children-10 grandchildren-3 great grandchildren introducing each one to the fine art of roasting chestnuts. She voted every election--had a small American flag and a picture of F D Roosevelt in the kitchen where everyone always sat.