Today is my grandmother’s 85th birthday. That’s a lot of birthdays, if you ask me. I am sitting here at my laptop, surrounded by technology and the comforts of 21st century life, trying to imagine even a portion of what she’s seen in her lifetime.

Just the other day, she showed me a vacuum tube that she made for the Navy during World War II. She was one of the only women in her factory, and she ran a lathe that required the constant use of both feet and both hands to operate. The only evidence of her tenure there is this illicit tube, smuggled out of the factory and kept in a beaded evening purse from her younger years, and a drawing of her at her lathe, made by a co-worker because no photos were allowed.

Baba was younger than I am now when World War II broke out. And here I sit, almost 27 myself, having never experienced a day’s deprivation or real hardship in my whole life. Hopefully, I never will. And hopefully, I will never have to sacrifice my own plans in order to contribute to a nationwide war effort. Baba was also one of the first women accepted at UC Berkeley, but she put that career aside during the war, got married, and never returned. (At least that’s how I understand it.)

As I think about my grandmother on her 85th birthday, I realize that she’s a whole lot more than the cute little old lady I grew up with. Yes, she was my babysitter and constant companion during my childhood, she played “fellas” with me by the hour, gave us cranberry juice after school and let us watch Animaniacs on her TV. Since I’ve been an adult, she has become my co-politico in the family, thoroughly researching candidates and ballot issues and telling us all how to vote come election day. (The King bloc always remains solidly Democratic, if not Green, thank you very much.)

Baba is and has been all of these things to me. But she has also been an incredible woman in her own right, raising three children through move after move, state after state, always following the real estate market that was her husband’s profession. And she played an integral part in a war effort that I now read about in books. Even though she’s not as spry now as she once was, she has led an impressive life nonetheless.

I only hope that in sixty years’ time I can look back and say that I did the same.

Happy birthday, Baba.

Advertisements