My Grandmother Vera is really cool.
Gramulator (as I call her) was born in the 1930s and raised in New York City by a very young immigrant single mom, my Great-Grandmother BabiBabi. BabiBabi kept an urban garden on the roof of their tenement building to be able to feed the family, relying on found & recycled objects such as the wooden gun boxes she used as planters. She was "upcycling" not because it was the fun trendy hobby it is today, but because she had no other choice.
Gramulator has told me lots of stories about her childhood, and I know she's happy that I'm continuing the urban gardening tradition. She recently emailed me a story that I'd like to share-- that's right, Gramulator uses email, IM, and even Facebook. I told you she was cool!
In the 1940s, when Gramulator was living on East 81st Street and her mother had the rooftop garden, there was a man in their building who used part of the roof to raise pigeons. Gramulator said they would often eat the pigeons to supplement their homegrown veggies.
The man would also give Gramulator tiny pigeon eggs to eat even though she wanted chicken eggs like everyone else. He told her the eggs were so special that only princesses could eat them, and once she learned this fact, she loved receiving the eggs. This man managed to create something magical for my grandmother out of their desperate situation.
I didn't know anything about this urban gardening family history when I first started, and I've loved hearing the stories come out over the last few years. I'm proud to come from a long line of strong women. My mom, Gramulator, BabiBabi and beyond have all figured out creative ways to be independent, and Gramulator had a long career during an era when many women didn't work full time. I'll keep sharing the stories as I get them!
Do you have family gardening stories? Share them here!
Photo by Jacksoncam // Used under Creative Common license