Sunday, July 6, 2008

It didn't rain on our parade

Apparently in the early 1900's, there used to be lots of rose parades along the Alameda, a main thoroughfare in our neighborhood. This 4th of July, our neighbors revived the tradition, going mostly along small streets and ending up at the Alameda for a festival.

There were dogs galore.
And a firetruck dressed up in honor of the San Jose Sharks.
My favorite float was a small one honoring world peace.
Our out gay supervisor Ken Yeager attended.
And there were lots of cool old cars and other vehicles.


Former mayor and local icon Susan Hammer rode by.
And various local groups participated: a bilingual school group, an Asian dance troupe, and more.

Afterward, Annie and I came home and finished painting our kitchen. Every summer we say we're going to tackle home projects, and we're actually doing it this year.

I revised a book review and submitted it to an editor. Now I'm reading a manuscript of a novel that I'll be blurbing; it's coming out with Plain View Press in the fall. The novel features Hungarian immigrants in America, serendipitous because my paternal grandmother was Hungarian.

She was born Anna Hadzima in Cleveland in 1911; her parents had just immigrated. When she was 2, her mother took her back to Hungary to visit family. They returned to Cleveland to discover that Anna's father had been killed in a streetcar accident on Cleveland streets. Anna's mother (who had epilepsy) remarried another Hungarian immigrant, John Straka.
When my grandmother was 16 years old, she had a nightmare one night and went to her mother's bed, who invited Anna to sleep with her. When my grandmother awoke the next morning, her mother was dead. A seizure had killed her in the middle of the night.

So there was my grandmother, only age 16, and both of her parents were gone. She had only made it through eighth grade. She was beautiful but poor. Her step-father remarried, and the new wife beat my grandmother.

No wonder she got pregnant at age 19, before she was married (of course she never admitted this to us, but records make it clear). That pregnancy was my father. Anna did marry him soon after--his name was "Evans" (also Hungarian; his family named had been changed at Ellis Island). He turned out to be an alcoholic who abandoned the family. She married 3 more times (one of the men died of cancer; the other two were also alcoholics who abandoned her) and had a total of 4 children.

All of this, and she never lost her Catholic faith. She loved watching the 700 Club--all those sweaty preachers begging for money. She also loved big-time wrestling.

She was also a wonderful cook. I loved her homemade noodles and saurkraut and rich soups and paprika chicken. And my grandmother used to make something we called "poppyseed roll." Reading the novel manuscript, I found a description of a woman making that thing. Now I know it's called kalacs.

Thinking about Grandma, reading this novel and watching the parade make me glad to be living in a community formed by immigrants.
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