Of course, today is Veteran's Day, the holiday previously known as Armistice Day, but before it was either of those, it was my grandmother's birthday.
My maternal grandmother, Anna Brilinski Mattes was born on November 11, 1891 on the Lower East Side of New York City. She was one of three children; she had a brother and a half sister.
The family was not well off and she went to work at what we would consider a very early age. She worked as a domestic, a "mother's helper" for a wealthy family at 15 years of age and married my grandfather at 18 years.
She had three biological children and provided a home for one of her nephews when his mother died. She also provided short term foster care for babies with health problems.
Most of my childhood she and my grandfather lived in the apartment beneath us and they were a very important presence in my life. When I was quite young, I remember walking with her to neighborhood shops, but these became less and less frequent as her arthritis worsened. She gradually became more and more housebound, but was still central to the family. When my uncle's wife died, he came to live in the apartment for a couple of years along with his daughter, who spent much of her time with my brother and me, more like siblings than cousins, until her dad remarried.
She was an excellent cook but as time went on and her mobility decreased, my mother took on much of that role for holidays and family gatherings.
The entire extended family used to visit frequently.
She died on June 10,1961, just short of my 16th birthday. On the day of my birthday, one of the gifts I received was a card and sugar cube corsage (as was the fashion in those olden days) that she had already bought for me and had ready.
I have my grandmother (Mom-Mom) to thank for a number of things, among them:
1. A love of food
2. A good basis in cooking skills
3. A predisposition toward arthritis
4. A hearty and infectious laugh that I'm told is like hers
5. Great enjoyment of company /socialization
6. A love of singing
7. An impatience with pretension and self-promotion
Happy Birthday, Mom-Mom!