I have great memories of my grandmother. I am blessed to have spent some quality time with her during her last few years of life. She is an amazing person who fascinates me with her endless wit, funny stories and undying love of family. She was always giving advice and using Ethiopian sayings to give life lessons. For example, “ye chekolech afessa lekemech” which means “one who rushes, spills everything and has to pick it back up”. My sister and I swear she understood English, although she never actually spoke it. We came to this conclusion because on several occasions she heard us having a discussion and she interjected in Amharic. Her interjection was precise and directly connected to the discussion at hand. And often times she would settle whatever debate was happening.
My grandmother, whom I called emameya, did not like it when we wore shorts, tanktops, or short dresses. Whenever she saw me she would say “lijay, abatesh cherk megzat alchalem” meaning: “my child, your father couldn’t buy material for your clothes.” She would also say “lebeshe, endiy berdesh” meaning “wear something so you don’t get cold.” She would take her gabe (her Ethiopian cotton blanket) and put it on me to cover me up and keep me warm. However, it was summer time, so then I was just hot. I would laugh and tell her it is hot outside so that’s why I’m wearing this, she would then explain why it didn’t matter and tell me about how I need to cover up. I always laughed and said “ishe emameya”. And she would respond with “hmm”. Its almost as though she knew I wasn’t going to really listen to her. After all, we were in America, shorts were common and acceptable.
I miss her dearly. Her charm and wit will be engraved in my memory forever. Her advice , strict manner and high expectations help shape me into who I am today. Her experiences and her unbelievable strength amaze and inspire me. She experienced so much in her life time. Married at a very young age. The loss of a child during the Derg civil war. 12 children and 28 grand and great grand children. She is the cornerstone of our family. In good times and bad times we surrounded ourselves around her. Even in her deteriorating health she seemed to have strength and wisdom that was unimaginable. I saw her in some of her most vulnerable times, but even then she was more concerned about our well being than her own.
I can only hope to have a fraction of her strength, and with that I know this Ethiopian American Girl will be able to get through anything.
Feel free to share your stories of your Abesha Grandmother here!