My grandmother immigrated from Toronto when she was six years old along with the rest of her family. She married my grandfather, a US citizen who worked in an auto-plant, when she was twenty. Grandma then went on to live a full life, outlasting her husband and two of her children, before finally dying at the ripe old age of ninety. She was a tough lady, having survived the Depression with her wit and humor intact. When asked about the Depression, she would say that for breakfast they ate potatoes and tomatoes, for lunch they ate tomatoes and potatoes, and for dinner they had a choice of either potatoes and tomatoes or tomatoes and potatoes. Grandma always had a sharp remark for empty platitudes and hated being the object of people’s pity.
|Potatoes and tomatoes? Or tomatoes and potatoes?
My sister, who studied genealogy in college, liked to interview my grandmother about our family history. Sometimes Grandma was willing to collaborate, filling out the bare bones of our family tree with the details that make history come alive. Other times she would get short-tempered, usually when my sister pointed out all the first-cousin marriages cluttering up our family tree.
Another point of contention was my grandmother’s immigration status. Whenever my sister brought up the naturalization process, my grandmother would become un-characteristically quiet. We never did find evidence of our grandmother becoming a US citizen, although she was married to one and collected Social Security. I suppose, in those days, the rules weren’t quite as strict. In any case, my grandmother was as much of a citizen as anyone else; she worked, raised a family, and paid her taxes, just like everyone else.