Tag Archive | Washington DC

From spoiled to spoiling…

Star and Lila

Samantha Star Straf (age 50) and Lila Skaer (age 97) in Alexandria, VA.

Lila Cherry Blossoms

Lila gazing at the cherry blossoms

Reflections written and shared by Samantha Star Straf

I grew up an only Grandchild, with all the spoiling that implies.  Although there might be a request attached to something I asked for (Only if you bring home at least 3 A’s on your report card) I pretty much got everything I asked for (Except the pony, but I got horseback riding lessons).    I got a lot over the years from Grandma Lila but mostly I remember things like reading my school books to her while she baked cookies or her wonderful dinner parties where I was treated as an adult in the conversation like everyone else.

Two years ago after a handling a number of ER trips via phone that were results from medication mistakes the decision was made that she should move from her independent living situation to an assisted care facility with medication management.  Friends on the Kansas end of things (where she was living) helped get her on a plane for a visit to us here in DC and while she was here we looked at two such places in the area here and she agreed that as long as she was moving she should move here.

There have been ups and downs and times that she regrets moving and times that she doesn’t know where she is or who I am, but overall she is happy with the move and being close to family again.  And my role has changed from spoiled grandchild to the one doing the spoiling and I now understand her joyous feelings all those years ago.  Yesterday I braved the stand still traffic to drive around the tidal basin to let her enjoy the Cherry Blossoms out the window and the people and the ‘being in the center of it all’, we take annual trips to see the Washington Nationals play – she has no idea what the score is, but loves being at the ball game.  And this summer will be her first trip to the Atlantic since she was 20 when we take her out to Rehoboth beach for a weekend.

Sometimes she argues with me that I do too much for her and I remind her of taking me to dinner in Paris, or the beach in Acapulco, or sewing me a new dress.  It is nice to finally being able to pay some of that debt.


Postscript: Watch Lila Skaer aged 97 talk about being a grandma: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPJGH53h6Us

“The Look” from Nana Johnson and Nana Neagle


Nana Johnson and Nana Neagle

Nana Neagle

Nana Johnson and Nana Neagle

Nana Johnson

Reflections written and shared by Terri Neagle Donaldson

I was fortunate enough to have known both of my grandmothers as I was growing up. I am the youngest of nine children and my parents were in their forties when I was born. Though they were up in years Nana Johnson, and Nana Neagle were a vibrant and colorful part of my childhood. We often visited my mother’s mother, Nana Johnson, on Saturdays in their Manassas, Virginia home, a small farm house she and my grandfather retired to. Nana Johnson did not drive and as my grandfather grew in age it was necessary for us to take the long drive to Manassas for weekly grocery shopping trips or anything else Nana needed. My father’s mother, Nana Neagle, lived a short distance from us with my aunt and uncle in Rockville, MD. Both grandmothers were in and out of our home and we were back and forth in theirs.

Though these two women raised their families close to each other in Washington D.C., they could not have been more different. Nana Johnson wore a dress every single day of her life, and wore her long hair in a bun. Nana Neagle had her hair “done” and for as long as I can remember, she wore the same rhinestone cat eyed glasses, with style.

My Nanas saw and experienced a generation that shaped their spirit and ours. They experienced things I have only read about. They saw horse drawn carriages blur into highways, they fed their families through the great depression, they sent their sons off to war, and they buried their husbands and continued on.

Never had two women been more different in personality, or appearance, and yet they both had fine tuned, the art of, “the look”. “The look” consisted of a strong chin, raised up slightly into the air and a sideways glance of the eye. They did not need to say much. “The look” said it all. “The look” was a nod to an assurance of what you knew deep down inside already. “The look let you know you were deeply loved and they were either proud, or displeased in what you had done, but never in who you were. It gave you an inkling inside, and you knew they were praying or hoping for your future. It summed up every part of your being and confirmed without a doubt, you were part of a family bond that could not be broken. It was “the look” that reminded you of who you were and what the generations before you had given so you could become it. You knew you were part of the hopes and dreams that came before you. It was the expression that conveyed you were part of something bigger than yourself. “The look” encompassed you in a circle, fiercely wound together by, family, faith, Love, and life. I am currently perfecting “the look” and I hope to give it to my own grandchildren one day.

Laszlo and Olga

Andrea Gabossy's Grandparents ("Laszlo and Olga") & Dad, 1946.

Andrea Gabossy’s Grandparents (“Laszlo and Olga”) & Dad, 1946.

Reflections written and shared by Andrea Gabossy

I think about my grandparents a lot and who they were… the grandparents on my dad’s side.  Laszlo and Olga.  The names probably are a dead give-away as to their nationality – Hungarian.  Both were born in the early 1900s in Hungary and grew up in the old country.  My grandfather was a colonel in the Hungarian army; he commanded a cavalry unit.  They emigrated to the United States in 1951 (I found the actual immigration record on Ancestry.com!) and settled in Maryland, eventually also living in Virginia and Washington, DC.  My grandfather worked for the Federal Government as a cartographer until he retired in his 70s.

When I was born, my grandparents doted on me; I can tell from my childhood photos.  Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away when I was 2 years old, so I do not really remember her.  But, I do remember my grandfather.  Habits from being in the Army never died; he always dressed impeccably, in trousers and a dress shirt.  His shoes were always shined.  Shaved every morning.  On cooler days, he wore a long, black wool overcoat and fedora.

I have many memories of ‘Nagypapa’ (Hungarian word for grandfather)… memories which evoke a warm fuzziness… that of comfort and security.  What I remember the most is that he had a seemingly infinitesimal patience for all my crazy shenanigans!  I remember going to Palisades Park with him on summer weekends… attending mass on Sunday mornings… watching Lawrence Welk and the bubble machine on TV… picking honeysuckles… laughing at the opening sequence of The Partridge Family where the bird kicks the eggshell… swinging in the swing on his porch… visiting Hungary in the summer of 1975… listening to a recording of my grandmother’s voice every night…

He never remarried after my grandmother died, and after reading some of his memoirs, apparently never got over her passing in September 1967:

Dear Son:  Since I lost your dear mother, my life has been nothing but misery and an overwhelming longing for her.  Over the past few days I have felt as if I was losing vital blood drop by drop, little by little. The feeling of loss for your mother is still too strong and aching in my soul and heart…

As an adult, I have come to greatly respect this soulful, lonely, somewhat melancholy, yet disciplined man of integrity, and only wish that he had been around longer in my life and that I could have had more time with both my grandparents.  I could have learned so much from them.  I do hope that they can see me now, and that they are proud of the person I have become and how I have lived my life.