My great-grandmother Trush passed away on Wednesday, at the remarkable age of 98. Sophie Trush was a woman that truly sparkled - captivating us all with her sass, her stories, and her ridiculously good Polish food. Some of my favorite memories childhood memories are from our times together.
My family and I spent many summers and holidays on the Trush farm in Sassamansville, PA with my great-grandparents, and my grandmother lived there for several years even after my grandfather passed away. Part of the adventure of visiting them (as a little kid, anyway) was the six hour car ride on the PA Turnpike. One winter, it snowed so badly as we were driving that the Turnpike shut down and we were stranded on the side of the road for several hours! To combat the misery of spending six hours (or more) in the car, my sister and I would get to make toy boxes full of things from home to entertain us during the car ride. I recommend this trick to all parents traveling with small children! Having our toys with us was a nice thing for my parents I'm sure, but the best part about the boxes for us was getting to decorate them. My dad would bring home computer paper and computer paper boxes from work, and we would use the paper to cover the boxes and then color on the outside. My parents still have two of these boxes (one of my sister's and one of mine) in their attic somewhere.
My great-grandmother told the best stories, mainly involving what her life was like when she was younger. For many years, she worked as a waitress in a diner not far from the farm, and she had a lot of really entertaining stories about the people she served and the girls she worked with! She also told a lot of stories about surviving the Great Depression, and at times, I don't think she was convinced it was not still happening. She did not trust banks to store her money, and as a result, started storing her money under the mattresses of the beds in the house. When her oven was broken and my dad needed some money to buy a replacement part from the store, she told him to get it from between two mattresses. When he flipped the mattress over, he found tens of thousands of dollars in cash! My father then followed her around the house as she revealed all of her hiding spots (and then he promptly took her to the bank). Thank goodness no one had ever tried to rob her while she was living alone - they would have made off with her entire life savings!
I also loved her stories about her marriage to Stephen Trush, my great-grandfather. My great-grandparents were an example of a couple in love throughout their entire marriage. They were definitely the quintessential cute older couple that all of us younger married people aspire to be when we retire. After my great-grandfather died in 1995, she still always talked about "her honey" and what it was like to fall in love with him. I loved hearing those stories, because they kept his memory alive and brought the sparkle back to her eyes.
My sister and I had many adventures on their 40 acres of farm land. We learned how to shoot a coffee can with a shotgun and mow the lawn with a tractor. We played pretend, swung from the tire swing with the neighborhood kids, and picked blueberries. We would walk to the post office with my mom and dad sometimes to pick up Grandmom's mail (maybe this was the beginning of my absolute love for receiving mail?), and played a lot of games of hide and seek outside. Well...mostly outside anyway. During one game, Jenn and I cheated and hid indoors and then watched through the windows of the farmhouse as Mom searched for us outside. (Sorry Mom, this still makes me laugh every time I think about it.)
The trips to the farm also involved visiting the local sights of Sassamansville and Philadelphia. Sassamansville has some really great things going on (like this, and this), but I loved going into the city. I was convinced I was going to move to Philadelphia when I got older. It seems my 8 year old self was pretty insightful! My younger self had two goals for her life in Philadelphia: I wanted to have an apartment by the art museum (the ones I had picked out as a kid turned out to be out of my price range) and a membership to the zoo (this I did have for three years). Though I did not end up wanting to live in Philadelphia permanently, many of the things I love about the city are things I learned from my dad. (To name two - there is a great Italian ice place in South Philly on 12th and Shunk Streets, and a hole in the wall family-owned deli where you can buy Polish kielbasa.)
I have some very funny memories of my grandmother, and many of them revolve around food. My grandmother was an incredible cook when it came to cooking Polish food (the food of her heritage), but when she cooked or served anything else, it was disastrous. If you say the words "farm", "Easter", and "ham" to anyone in my immediate family, all of us will immediately cringe at the memory. I am not sure what she did to that ham, but it was crazy horrible. Everyone at the table raved about how good it was as we all struggled to swallow it. She also had the worst orange juice I have ever tasted in my life (I am not sure if it was the brand of orange juice or the amount of time it lasted in her fridge), and she always wanted to serve it to Jenn and/or me at all times. Jenn and I used to both take the orange juice (usually because my mom or dad told us to be nice and drink some), and then take turns transferring our juice into the other's glass. (Or maybe I just did that.) She also loved when we took her out to eat at Bonanza steakhouse. That was a really big treat for her, and we had a lot of fun going there (even though that food was also not the finest food one could find in Sassamansville).
Perhaps one of the funniest things about Sophie Trush was her adoration for Jerry Springer. Grandmom Trush firmly (and not sarcastically) believed that Jerry Springer helped those people that came onto his show, and she never missed an episode. It was mind-boggling. My favorite part was that she would chant along with the studio audience when they were saying "Jerry, Jerry, Jerry" and encourage us all to chant too. She wanted to cheer him on, because she felt truly bad for these people caught up in "such a horrible mess." She also reminded Jenn and me that we should always date nice men, so that we wouldn't "end up like one of the girls on Jerry's show with their trampy dresses and hair all unwashed. They are not young ladies!"
I am truly grateful to have had such a delightful grandmother, and to have so many wonderful memories to remember her by. David and I will celebrate Grandmom Trush's life and our memories with her with the rest of my family at her funeral mass on Monday.