The First Seven Years

“Give me a child for the first seven years, and you may do what you like with him afterwards.” St. Ignatius Loyola.

In honor of that belief, I’d like to repost a piece of writing dedicated to the woman who raised me.


Her name was Anna. She came to America during Annathe great immigration of the 1920’s.

She left Prague, Czechoslovakia with a steamer trunk, and “more than $35”, according to the ship manifest. She was 5 ft. 10 in. tall, blue eyes, ash blonde hair.

Ellis Island officials were quick to notice a beneficial skill; she spoke 7 languages. She was offered a job, and housing.

The job didn’t last long. No details were provided, it was said she was heartbroken at what she saw happening there.

She moved to Philadelphia, taking a job as a nanny to a wealthy family. She met my grandfather, a proud Hungarian immigrant, who purchased a small dairy farm in rural Chester County. They married. My father came 8 months later.

The Great Depression hit. The banks foreclosed on the farm. My grandfather lost his fortune, his dream, and his mind. He never recovered.

She raised her 2 children alone. They struggled. My father found odd jobs from the age of 12, left high school to enlist in the army, sending all of his income home.

When he married my mother, Grandmom moved in. He would have it no other way.

Our mother birthed 3 daughters, turning each of us over to be raised by our grandmother, who lovingly assumed all traditional maternal roles. She said it was her way of “earning her keep”.

Ours was a working mom, rare for the 1950’s, providing financial support for a growing family. We saw very little of her during those years…my first 7 years.

Everything I knew about love and family, every value, every tradition, every concept of faith and hope, every work ethic, every practical skill, every appreciation for art, music and culture…it all came from my grandmother. I spent hours in her shadow, especially in the kitchen. She had a way with food.

We lost her to a sudden death before my 7th birthday. Chaos ensued. Our family would heal, there was growth and recovery, but we would never be the same.

We had lost our foundation, the rock of 2 generations.

I honor her memory, and I wear her wedding band on my right hand.

She is with me always.

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85 Responses to The First Seven Years

  1. She sounds like a strong and loving woman. So often women are the foundation of families and step to the plate when the team is behind, hitting that home run into the bleachers! I’m sorry you didn’t have more time with her, but in many ways she seems to be with you still.

    • Strength, for sure, Diana, but I think her heart gave out over a lifetime of tragedy, and the fact that she loved fat. Literally. She would remove the fat from a roast deep fry it , called “tepeta”. There was “Szalonna” which was smoked pork fat dripped onto rye bread, a Hungarian treat. Serious stuff.

      • Stress takes a toll without a doubt. Unfortunately a loving heart doesn’t guarantee longevity. And the fat…My father loved to fry up trimmed fat and cover it with salt – he was a long time Vermonter.

      • I guess it’s not much different than bacon, after all. Ahhh…bacon. The single biggest reason I could never accept a vegan diet !! ☺

  2. A moving tribute to grandmother Van. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. ❤
    Diana xo

  3. Victo Dolore says:

    That was great tribute!

  4. Erika Kind says:

    Now I know what you meant when you commented on my guest blog about my grandfather. That truly was a close and certain bond. Although you were so young you are having such a wonderful and honoring memory of your grandmother. That tells me that she has never really left you. Her energy has been with you throughout the years and most of all in your darkest and hardest hours. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us, Van. Love knows no limits and no bounderies.

  5. Silver Threading says:

    Beautiful story Van. You are strong like your Grandmom. I can tell. ❤

  6. writerinsoul says:

    This really moved me, Van. Beautiful.

    • Glad you could appreciate the sentiment, Colette. I was lucky to have her in those formative years. It made all the difference in what was coming later !

      • writerinsoul says:

        That’s sort of how I feel about a brother-in-law I had from age 10 to 20. I look back now with deep appreciation, even more than I had at the time

      • “Don’t it always seem to go,
        That you don’t know what you’ve got
        ‘Til it’s gone” …a little Joni Mitchell.

  7. Maria says:

    You made me think about my great grandmother, her name is Anne and she actually looks a bit like your grandmother! I have to find the old photos of her to show you! She left this earth, but her spirit is still with you and it is so obvious to ready in your words ❤️ hugs ❤️

  8. George says:

    She sounds like an amazing woman and I love that you still wear her ring. I also love that quote….very true.

  9. mandy says:

    What an amazing impact one person can have on another’s life. Your grandma was very special.

  10. C.E.Robinson says:

    Van, what a beautiful tribute to your grandma! She was a happy part of your young life that you carry in your heart today. Happy Thoughts on Mother’s Day for your grandma! Christine

  11. LaVagabonde says:

    Beautiful tribute, Van. I’ve often wondered about the immigrants in those days, especially the women. It took a certain kind to be able to sail away into the new world. She reminds me of my great-grandmother – the women from Czechoslovakia were so strong-willed and TALL.

    • She came alone, even more fascinating to me. Unlike most immigrants,she had no family here. I don’t know what kind of courage it took to do that. I also never knew who/what she left behind in Prague. Tall, for sure. Thanks, Julie.☺

  12. Angie Mc says:

    I’m privileged to be introduced to your grandmother, Van. She is an inspiration to all women who want to love their family into a better place. The fruit of her love is you ❤

  13. There are so many stories in our family trees which, if nothing else, reveal how much sacrifice and strength brought us to where we are right now. It is right that you remember and pay tribute to Anna who clearly was one amazing woman.

  14. Phyllis Leshin says:

    What a poignant and eloquent description of your grandmother and her extraordinary life and influence on yours. I am the daughter of Nettie, the granny that was my own daughter’s inspiration. She had a profound affect on my life and helped me to become an independent woman. Thank heaven for little girls (grannies)…

    • What a lovely compliment, Phyllis. Thank heaven for sure. Sometimes we don’t get to keep them for long, like Dyane and myself, but the lasting influence of grandmothers that care is profound. ❤️

  15. You have such a wonderful respect and appreciation for your grandmother. Somewhere she is smiling down at you, I think.
    It sounds like she was a ” quality time” person and really enjoyed teaching you things.
    I always loved that part of being mom to little girls. Sharing music, art, history, science and all of those things.

  16. lbeth1950 says:

    God bless her loving soul.

  17. A lovely tribute Van to a special lady.

  18. The V Pub says:

    It’s truly a testament to her that you have such strong memories of her still. What a wonderful tribute this is, Van.

  19. Beautiful memories 🙂

  20. Val Boyko says:

    A great woman … may her genes live on through you and yours Van 💕

  21. A wonderful woman she was… 🙂 Great to know about her…. 🙂

  22. Lady G says:

    Oh how very lucky you were to have her for those 7 years. Your description of her is so lovely; a person whom anyone could admire.

  23. An amazing person! I love the photo as well.

  24. Raise your glasses and say”to our beloved that are no longer earthly, we carry you within us….life eternal” Cheers

  25. I’m sorry you lost her so young. It sounds like you have amazing values and memories.

  26. Deb says:

    Oh what a beautiful tribute to grandmother, sounds like she had a lot to teach and pass down to you…how lucky you were. She did an amazing job!! My condolences on losing her at such a young age for you…I’m glad that you wear her ring that she is always with you! xo

  27. A marvellous tribute. A good substitute can make up for absences

  28. I am sure she would love this beautiful tribute.

  29. Laura says:

    What a beautiful tribute, and how wonderful to know so much of your family history. She sounds like an amazing woman!

  30. writerinsoul says:

    I like seeing this again Van.

  31. You are so fortunate to have had Anna in your life! As I read this, I wondered how I might be able to channel her for my grandchildren… Thanks so much for sharing her with us all Van!

  32. Interesting story, lessons we learn from the past.
    Oh,,,,I can’t let you review because my part has to remain secret until you read it. Are you traveling next week or have family in town. The post is almost complete, I have a few more ideas but time contracts may get in the way. I chose not to mention anything about your secret or the cookbook. I feel better that way. Even if you outed yourself, you asked everyone to call you Van. I do want to reread one post, it stuck with me, I want to understand why.
    Have a great weekend.

  33. Lala Rukh says:

    How in such simple words you have described the ocean of love you have in your heart for this great Lady. My respects for her. You were so lucky to have such an inspirational lady in your life. Such a beautiful, sweet little honest post. Much Love to you xxx

  34. amommasview says:

    So beautiful, Van…

  35. Oh wow! Van this is a wonderful recount. You should write a short story or novella.

    • There was a lot that I remember of her, odd since I wasn’t even 7 when she passed. She had amazing strength, suffered greatly and kept her family proud and strong through it all. Thanks, J. 💘

  36. joey says:

    Aw, I got all weepy! What a loving tribute to your grandmother. ❤
    I recall having a conversation with my mother once, around 23, I think I was. I'd read Elizabeth Berg's What We Keep and it moved me, shattered me, and yet comforted me in a way I don't think any other book has done. I immediately phoned my mother and told her that I know, without a doubt, it was her early years at home with me that shaped me most — my first teacher. A lot happened between then and even now, but St. Ignatius and Elizabeth Berg and you are right, it's the beginning of life that made all the difference in me.

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