She is on my mind alot this time of year in particular. It was her favorite time of year. I know, I know, most people love this time of year, but it always gave my Oma such joy to be with all of us this time of year. It put a twinkle in her eyes like nothing else did~ and her eyes twinkled ALOT!!! Whether it was with mischief(frequently), laughter (always), or plain pride(in all of us, of course), it seemed to me her eyes were always twinkling. I so miss that twinkle.
And today while cleaning some things in the cabinet I came across a small piece in her church newsletter that they wrote about her. It decribed her so PERFECTLY that it brought me to tears that I haven't come back from yet. So, I thought I'd share a little about how who she was shaped who I am today.
I learned so many things while at her kitchen table. How to eat being the first order of business. It seemed like I was never quite plump enough to suit Oma. It makes me giggle now, but back then it meant I had to eat all kinds of crazy stuff. Like red cabbage, cabbage rolls, goulash, bratwurst, sauerkraut. I learned to love all those thing later in life, but as a little one, it seemed to be a never ending variation on cabbage (well, it kinda was). But the thing I looked forward to the most was the noodles. Oh, the noodles... covered in butter, or sauce, or even better, crunchies. I lived for those noodles. I think she'd appove of my plumpness these days. I still have my love for noodles, they're on the table several nights a week, but I never did master the art of the sauce. Or maybe it was the cookies, or the cake, or the kolaches that I lived for. It was ALLL good. As a matter of fact, it was GREAT!
I learned the art of visiting there too. I remember many many nights spent just sitting and listening to the grown ups visit. It wasn't until it got late in the evening and the grown ups got rowdy that my Oma or my mom would shoo my little brother and I into the living room. I heard all about her life growing up in Romania, her time in Germany, her trip across Poland during the second World War. I heard aunts and uncles visit, discuss, and downright argue, but we were together, so no matter what it was a priviledge just to be there. I learned the art of listening to the same story told over and over and never appearing bored, because she had great stories that needed telling and were SO worth hearing even if you had no idea who the characters in the story were. There is a subtle give and take in visiting, and she had it down to a science. I like to think I learned a thing or two about visiting while in her company.
I learned about the importance of family. She taught me that no matter what, we were a family and we were all we had! I learned that distance and time apart didn't mean a thing if you had a family like ours. I grew up thinking ALL families were like mine. That everyone spent every holiday together, and the time between looking forward to the next time we would be together again. I realized later in life that this kind family is more like a fairy tale, and in reality it's a little (ok, alot) scary for those being brought into the inner circle for the first time. I think every person who has ever married into this crazy family has a story to tell about their first time. It was a right of passage kind of thing, if you could handle the fam, and navigate the ever present food with grace, you were in... after a little hazing of course. We're a little more overwhelming these days. There are more of us (and yes some of that falls squarely on me), and we're a little more spread out, but we are a family, and we're a family because she made us this way.
In her kitchen I learned how to cook without measuring. Ok, I know to most of you you don't think of that as a life skill, but I love knowing that I don't have to measure to make things that are edible. It takes the pressure off! Knowing that with a couple of eggs and some flour and water I can make spetzle noodles from scratch if I want, frees me up to create amazing food! Oma rarely followed a recipe, and we tried more often than not to get her to let us write it down, but when we did get it on paper, she almost always left a little *something* out. I'm pretty sure she did it just so none of us could ever cook as well as she did. It still makes me laugh!
I think the most important thing she taught me was how to live my life without bitterness and defeat. My Oma, she went through so much in her life. Hardship was never far off, even her life here in America was full of trials. Yet through it all she never gave up, and she went about life with a joyful spirit. The person she was drew people to her like a magnet. Not just her family, but everyone within a hundred mile radius! It was magical to see her in action. Her mouth was always smiling and inviting more and more people into our little family. We never knew who might show up to dinner at Oma's, but it was sure to be a treat. Because of her, I have learned to trust in God for His grace in my life and be thankful for everything and everyone in my life, instead of focusing on all the things that have gone awry.
Tonight, I cried. I cried for the loss of someone who taught me so much about life and how to live it. It's been years since she passed, but her spirit lives on here everyday. So this season, while I'm muttering about parenting woes, and too much shopping to do, and endless tasks to undertake, I'll try to remember the lessons she taught me: To eat and love it, to listen closely to others life stories, to value my family and make sure they know it, to wing it sometimes... in life and in the kitchen, and to never give up and just keep on trusting God that He knows what He's doing better than I do, so I should just keep smiling and inviting people to join me at His table.