Grandmother’s Garden

Childhood memories, our grandmothers, the love of our families in the first years of life… Are they important?

I never thought of it and how fortunate I was to have and know my grandmother. Of course, it would have been ideal to also know my grandmother on my father’s side and my grandfathers, but they were no longer with us, as my mother vaguely explained every time I asked. My mother had a way with words and not answering my questions, so what I learned from her was to tell my children about my life and theirs in early childhood, when a foundation of trust, self esteem and feeling love and connection to our families, our origins start to develop.

Only when we no longer have something we notice how much it meant to us. I often wondered about the feelings of children who had no grandparents… They didn’t know how it felt to connect and be unconditionally loved by a grandmother, which is a unique, special kind of love, different than any other. I felt sad for them, but at the same time the thought made me write this post which is dedicated to MY GRANDMOTHER, my mother’s Mom.

She lived in Iasi, a good seven-hour train ride from Bucharest, the capital of Romania, where we lived. We, meaning my mother, father and myself. Distance didn’t seem to be a problem and beside my grandmother visiting us in Bucharest, what I remember and treasure the most are the times I spent in Iasi with her and my aunt, my mother’s sister who lived with grandmother and her husband. My grandfather, as I mentioned before, was another “mistery,” he was not with us…he was dead.

My grandmother’s house was different than anything I knew existed. Odd things, such as there was no bathroom in the house and we had to walk all the way to the back of the yard to a very disgusting sort of toilet. Such as not having running water, and going with my uncle to get two big buckets of water from the public well, which was a good mile away from our house. But these trips were fun, the walking down an unpaved, dust road, the stopping to chat with friendly neighbors.

The memories of the times that stayed with me and gave me strength through the years are the little important things: my grandmother’s love and thoughtfulness expressed in little gestures, far more significant than having running water and a toilet inside the home.

Her house was small, but cozy and comfortable. The back yard was what to me was a Paradise: flowers, trees, herbs, even grapes I was picking off the wine. My favorite tree was a very old walnut under which I spent many days trying to train my pet, a chicken named Fairy (Zinica). I baptized her, with rain water because I feared when she left the Earth she’ll go to Hell if she wasn’t Christened.

Memories of roses…
Every morning, as I woke up, before opening my eyes, I smelled a rose. Every morning, my grandmother took the time to cut a fresh rose and put it on my pillow to wake me up in a good mood. To this day, all it takes to change my mood to happy is to smell a rose…
Well… she was also a great cook and baker, so the smell of freshly baked goods is also something that brings up good memories.

I often wondered why are smells so important and why a smell brings up in us instant memories and emotions?

I researched our five senses (if you ask me, they are six) and learned that of all senses the ONLY one that goes to our limbic system in the brain, which is the oldest and connected to memories and emotions, is THE SENSE OF SMELL!
The sense of smell, unlike the others, which travel straight to a part of the brain called “thalamus,” which works like a switchboard in our brain, and re-distributes our senses signals to various parts of the brain, therefore our being conscious of them is not immediate, as it is with the sense of smell.
This is why, the conscious processing of smells is immediate, before it reaches the consciousness of the odor.

The importance of context.

Let’s say my grandmother lived on a farm and the predominant smell was horse manure. Probably, my good memories would be triggered by that smell. Thank God she woke me up with the smell of roses and freshly baked cookies.

I learned from my grandmother many values which made my solid foundation, which carried me through the ups and downs of life.

I remember she always told the truth and sometimes it hurt, yet she always chose to tell it as it was…

This reminds me of an incident, and that it was not always “the smell of roses.”

The Farmer’s Market was at the bottom of a steep hill and grandmother’s house all the way up, at the top.

My aunt and I went to the market. My aunt was a heavy set woman, who walked up the hill with difficulty. She gave me to carry a sac of potatoes. Probably 4-5 potatoes.

As we walked up the hill, I got tired. I told her I could no longer carry the potatoes, but she screamed at me. She was not nice! I decided to “punish her.”

I kept on walking, ahead of her, and when I arrived at the top of the hill, I dropped the sac of potatoes, which rolled all the way down, to the bottom of the hill! I will never know if she walked back to get those potatoes, because I ran as fast as I could and hid between a fence and the house’s wall, where I knew she was too heavy and big to reach me!

I still have in my mind the image of my poor aunt trying to fit between the narrow space between the house wall and the fence. I spent hours in that space, until a kind neighbor and my grandmother came to “negotiate” with me and under what conditions was I coming out, as it was getting dark.

I must have been a good negotiator, because I don’t remember being punished harshly … I am sure I was, because somehow I learned early in life that we have choices and there are consequences, and they could be good or bad, depending on our deeds. Dropping the sac of potatoes certainly didn’t qualify as a good deed.

Thank you grandmother, for everything you taught me, for the good and the fun memories and especially for…
The Smell of Roses!” IMG_0161_2

Know Your Roots, To Understand Your Branches: True Stories About My Grandparents Lives

They say, one couldn’t miss that which they didn’t experience…

How could a child who never had the fortune of experience a grandmother’s love, miss that experience?

I was fortunate. Partly fortunate, to know and spent time with my grandmother, my Mom’s Mother. She was the only grandmother who was still alive at the time of my birth. The time spent with her remains to this day, one of my most valuable and treasured memories.

How about my other three grandparents, whom I only knew from my parents’ stories and looking at pictures?

My other grandmother, Dad’s Mom, died from a heart attack when she was 50 years-old. My memory of her was the picture of an obese, stern-looking woman. No wonder, she wasn’t smiling, the stories I heard about her and how she raised alone five children, would make anyone cry but also admire her. With the understanding of today, I know she was a strong woman, a tough woman who did whatever it took to care for her children.

What about my Grandfathers?

My grandfathers, on both sides, were more “legend-like” characters, wrapped in mistery. My Mom’s Dad, was some kind of a law enforcement officer during the King’s regime, before the communists took over Romania. His career was never mentioned, as it could have resulted in his family going to jail. He died suddenly, of unknown causes and my Grandmother raised her four children, two girls and two boys mostly on her own…

Things were  not much different when it came to my Dad’s Dad. It is ONLY NOW, as I write this post that I notice a pattern!

My grandparents on Dad’s side, made the focus of many stories.

The most fascinating was about how he and my grandmother met and eloped.

My Grandfather was from Greece and found a job as a tabacco specialist in Romania.

On his way to Romania, he stopped at the boarder to rest overnight in the home of a Lipova family who had several daughters. Lipova was a small village at the boarder with Romania. The people in the village spoke a dialect, not Romanian or Greek, but closer to Slavonic (Ukrainian.) How the Greek communicated with his to-be wife, remained a mistery, or it showed words didn’t matter when instincts, called love, were involved.

The facts which were transmitted over generations, were those of a fairy tale: The Greek, my Grandfather, and one of the hosts’ daughters, Ana, fell in love overnight! The following morning, they eloped never to be seen again in Lipova!

The Greek tabacco grower and Ana, who at the time was 14-years old and didn’t speak Romanian or knew how to read or write, settled in the small Moldavian town of Birlad where my Grandfather had a good job.

At the beginning everything was dream-like! My grandfather and Ana, as a dutiful and fertile wife got pregnant immediately. They must have had an active love life, as she birthed 3 boys and 2 girls within the following 7-8 years. However, Greek men are known to be womanizers and his passion diminished, as Ana got older, fatter and therefore, less exciting!

The Greek grandfather began to arrive home later and later, drunker and drunker, until one night he didn’t arrive at all!

Ana was at the time pregnant with her 5th child, a girl. They waited and waited, but in vain. No trace of the Greek and no one seemed to know where he vanished!

Anna gave birth to my aunt, Stella, with the help of neighbors and friends. Strangers fed the family and everyone hoped that when the winter was over, the Greek father would magically appear!

When the spring arrived, someone found his dead body in a well, in one of the fields often used as a short-cut between the factory and my grandparents house.

It was assumed that my grandfather was so drunk, he tried to walk home in the dark and because snow covered the well, he fell in it and died a sad and miserable death.

This was how Anna became a widow with five children in a foreign town, barely speaking the language, unable to read or write.

My father told me stories from his childhood which stuck with me and gave me strength in the hardest moments of my life. I felt stronger knowing that determination runs in the family! My reasoning was that if Grandmother could do it, so could I! She raised her 4 children doing laundry and ironing clothing for the rich. Two of her sons went to college. The third boy, sadly died. One of the girls, my aunt Katherine, got married to a rich man and had two daughters. In those days, for a woman getting married to a rich man was the ultimate goal and the beautiful girls did, the less fortunate ones went to work. Her sister, Stella, was not as attractive, so she only got married much later in life, and worked as a secretary most of her life.

I started to write this post as memories flooded my mind, because it is a beautiful summer day.

When roses are in bloom, as they are now, I always remember with nostalgia and love the ONLY grandmother I had the luck of spending time with as a child. However, as I began to write, my mind wondered to stories about the grandparents I didn’t know personally, but who are also important parts of my roots and indirectly the roots of my family.

As I kept writing, for the first time I noticed a pattern in my parents’ families of origin: They both were part of families with four children, two boys and two girls and both my grandmothers, as different as they seem on the surface, were young widows and raised their children mostly on their own.  It is for the first time when I recognize and bow with respect to the generational strength proven over and over again by women in these families.

This post  started as a tribute to the only Grandmother I had the honor and luck of knowing but it turned into a tribute to the roots of my family… It ended up to be a story about the grandparents who are the roots I have but didn’t meet…

However, I feel my Grandmother, Olga, my Mom’s Mom, deserves her own story and place. She is the one whose wisdom and love guided me in hard times.  The memories of the time I had the luck to share with her and my aunt, Mom’s sister, Tincuta, continue to influence me positively,  providing strength and understanding.

To know our roots gives us a chance to understand and shape our branches, as they grow into the future.

May God bless both and the knowledge that one couldn’ttmp_20519-image-385207892 exist without the other.

Colds, Cough, Stuffy Nose– Natural Remedies

Natural Remedies for colds, cough, stuffy nose— it is the season and here there are a few old time natural remedies from Romania!

Several of my friends have lingering colds, stuffy noses and cough…

In an attempt to help them, I remembered that back home, in my native country of Romania, my grandmother was helping us by using natural products. Cough syrup… no, the pharmacy… no, antibiotics…no!

Before she would even think that far, if ever, these were a few of the natural remedies used from Biblical times: honey, garlic, basil, red wine (if you are an adult) , olive oil used in salads but also in small quantities (1 teaspoon full in the morning and one at night-MAXIMUM, said to help with overall health)

To write this post, I  also consulted some Romanian sites, to refresh my childhood memories: and

What follows are a few Eastern European natural remedies that may help you. 

As always, please consult with your health care professional and be aware of certain personal allergies, you may have. 

A Common Cause of a Cough that Lingers may be…

The dry air in your home, or the air conditioning. To rule out this cause, take two hot steamy showers every day, or boil water, remove off the stove. Sat pan on table and put in the boiling water a few drops or leaves of mint or basil. Cover your head with a towel and inhale the steam no longer than 5 minutes. It is best to do the inhalations in the evening and not go out in the cold after you do them.

Also, use a humidifier. In addition, you may put a few drops of apple cider vinegar on a tissue and keep close to your nose. It helps with stuffy noses.

Drink at least eight glasses of water a day, to hydrate your body.

Garlic is a known natural remedy–  It is recommended to eat 2 garlic cloves a day.

I like it prepared as follows: Place the cloves in foil and bake at 350 F until the inside of the cloves is soft. The inside of the cloves could be easily squeezed out. Place the soft garlic paste on fresh bread and eat warm. Delicious!!!

Foods that help heal colds:

Chicken Soup!!! Yes, indeed, chicken soup (for the soul or not) has been shown to truly aid in the healing of colds. Drink it! Eat soft foods, that do not irritate your throat. Drink warm NOT HOT teas. Hot will irritate your throat.

Gargle with salt, warm water (a teaspoonful of salt to a glass of warm water) DO NOT SWALLOW.

Honey is a known remedy and it could be used on its own, or in various combinations:

Honey and lemon juice. Mix the two and drink a sip every time you cough. DO NOT eat or drink anything for 20 minutes.

Clean, peel the outside of an onion, cut in pieces and cover with honey. Leave overnight and eat the next day. It will help heal your cough and cold.

If you have a persistent cough, try grating horseradish, place it in a piece of clothe and apply to chest. REMOVE IF IT BURNS.

Personally, I prefer a compress with menthol. I apply a Vicks type menthol cream to the chest, I cover with a towel (yes, it gets messy, but it feels good) I cover with a warm bag of herbs or anything warm. Make sure it is NOT TOO HOT, TO PREVENT BURNING. The smell of menthol and the warmth will soothe you. Do not keep for more than ten minutes. Take a break and repeat if necessary.

This natural remedy I used myself when I suffered from lingering colds accompanied by cough and aches which would not go away: Brandy and honey, a few drops of lemon juice. Mix well and make sure you don’t get drunk, in which case… we all know the rest!

In conclusion, if you have a cold, cough, stuffy nose, try natural remedies first, but always remember our bodies are unique and what helps one, sometimes does not help another. Use your common sense and consult your health care professional and…1400793230155 your grandmother.