I had amazing maternal grandparents — affectionately named Babi & Dziadzi. They arrived in Canada from Poland in 1922, and worked as hard as anyone I can imagine their whole lives in order to improve the lives of their children. Settling in St Catharines, Ontario, they built three houses on their own — literally digging the basements with their hands — and lived in the 3rd house until they died in their mid-90s. They spent their lives in manual labor — picking fruit on farms, working in canning factories, and digging ditches. It was a hard, grinding existence. They saved everything — each piece of Saran Wrap, each piece of foil.
In their backyard they grew their own vegetables — cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes — and they would spend the fall pickling everything for the winter. A vine along the back fence provided grapes for homemade wine, which we survived.
My favorite memories of childhood are of hanging out with Babi & Dziadzi in the backyard, crickets buzzing, in the super muggy-heavy heat of a Southern Ontario summer, sipping a glass of buttermilk. Heaven.
As a result of all their hard work, they were able to save enough to send my Mom to university and there’s a direct line between those sacrifices and my job at Microsoft today, and what my children are able to do with their own lives. Dziekuje Babi i Dziadzi!
They also taught me to drink beer — here I am at 2: