My Grandmother - Anna Jacoboska Malinowski 1853-191716,27,28

My mothers mother was a central figure in our lives. She came to the United States at the time of my mothers marriage to Jacob Beninsky -my father, in 1897. My maternal grandfather and his two eldest sons Stanley and Teofil preceded them by five years.

Upon her arrival, grandmother lived in Morea with grandfather and their three sons Stanley. Teofil and Martin. As our family grew grandmother walked the distance of 2 1/2 miles that separated the two patches in order to help Ma. She made the trip daily - a somewhat difficult task in winter.

A year after our family moved to Mores grandfather, who really never adjusted to the coal regions and never lost his distant longing for Poland, moved to Chicago with Teofil and Martin. They were enticed by news of an abundance of jobs with better working conditions. My two uncles were still unattached and opted for a change. They remained in that area but grandfather became more depressed and returned to Poland.

Grandmother cried -but was unwilling to leave her grandchildren. Grandfather understood. From that time on she lived with us.

Grandmother was a small boned and slender woman about 5 feet 2 inches tall. Her complexion was clear and glowing -a suitable background for her sparkling blue-gray eyes and rich brown hair which was always neatly braided and twisted into a knot at the nape of her neck.

To say she was meticulous about her appearance would be an understatement. Next to godliness cleanliness of body and mind were practiced daily both by her person and her example. She made certain that we had our weekly baths -more often if warranted as after hard days work of sliding down the coal banks! "The good Lord gave you a clean body mind and soul, and he expects you to keep them that way." If we failed it wasn't grandmother's fault!

I remember how she combed through all our heads on a weekly basis always on the lookout for lice which were all too common in the patches. "And be careful who you play with. These bugs can leap from one head onto another".

She would braid my hair -sometimes slicking it down with grease. I believe she used lard. It's a wonder we didn't have a mess of flies buzzing around our heads! The process was always associated with a lot of combing and pulling until I had tears in my eyes.

The ends were secured with string which was always a source of embarrassment since we couldn't afford ribbons.

My most memorable picture is that of grandmother wearing one of her beautiful fringed wool shawls which she carried with her from Poland. My favorite was a dusty pink which favored her pale complexion and her blue-gray eyes. Whenever she went visiting or to church, she would wear one of her many hats. Each was petite but beautiful in design and all were trimmed in satin ribbon.

I will also remember how she happily shared goodies with us. Goodies which which she had gleaned from her friend's or Aunt Anna's table, and which she carried under her shawl as she returned to our home. She always remembered her grandchildren and no foreign traveler could have been more warmly welcomed.

It was grandmother who heard our prayers at nightfall “In the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost, Amen". A large part of grandmother's persona was her Big Black Prayer Book with a prayer for every occasion. After our nightly prayers she would recite or read these to us each in it's proper time. I regret that I did not commit some of these to memory. Her prayer book was written in Polish. Although we grew up with the language we never learned to read Polish text. If there is any object I could have wished to save from my childhood it was grandmothers Big Black Prayer Book.

Ma wasn't a very healthy person. She was either pregnant or busy nursing the latest arrival. Having a child every two years had taken it's toll. Indeed, many of the women of that time died early from complications of childbirth and having children too close together.

Ma did oversee our household and the care of the animals but she was always tired and very dependent on grandmother, As children we also helped- tackling jobs according to our age and maturity.

Grandmother understood Ma's problem. She sure was glad he child-bearing days were over and her body had a chance to heal. She was an amazing woman who stayed constantly busy and yet we never heard her complain, as she washed and Ironed clothes, did the mending, and helped with numerous other tasks.

As busy as she was, she wants always pause to hear our problems or requests, and generously reassured each of us with her loving words and hugs. "Remember God loves you. You are one of God's children and YOU are special ".