The air was chilly and the ground was dusted with snow. My mom did a quick knock on the door. I could hear the sounds of the condo’s floor creaking under someone’s footsteps. When door swung open, I was suddenly filled with excitement for life; that’s what my Busha’s smile could do. Her eyes were deep with history and her wrinkles displayed evidence of a rich life. Busha was my Polish great grandmother. Busha’s real name was Charlotte, but everyone called her Lotti.
She was eight years old when her mother packed Busha’s five sisters and two brothers up for a voyage from Poland to Ellis Island. Her family was very poor and looked to the United States for a better life. Few can say they have faced the same hardships as Busha’s family. She grew up living with other polish families that they met along their way . After a period of time, the family finally bought a farm, where she was a hard working milk maid for many years. Busha did get married to a handsome young farmer and continued to live a life of a farm girl. One of the most admirable things about Busha was the value she placed on education. In her later years, after her husband past away, Busha went to college all by herself to earn a degree.
I have always loved Busha and have been fascinated with her life. She did so many exciting things, had so many experience that many people will never encounter, and most of all she became one of those rare individuals who shines brightly to everyone around them. I also ask my mom to tell me story about Busha’s past. My mom and I’s favorite is the story of when Busha walked out in the middle of a tornado to milk her cows. If everyone was as suborn and determined as my Busha the world would get a lot more done. She never let anything or anyone slow her down.
I always knew that, once I stepped into Busha’s condo, we would be cooking something good. At age 86 my Busha could still make the best polish cuisine in the world. However, on this particular day we would be making my favorite; Kruschiki. Kruschiki is a light polish cookie that is often referred to as angel wings, because of its appearance. It’s also one of the most time consuming desserts I have ever had to make. Kruschiki was my favorite to make because I can recall my Busha’s face while she worked. She was focused and committed on doing the best job she could with what was in front of her. Whipping Ingredients together, she did not need to look away from her masterpiece; for the recipe was in her head. I can only imagine that this hard work came with her experiences.
Often times I play with the food on my dinner plate as the thought of Busha plays through my head. It’s times like these I ask my mom to tell me stories about her.
“She was the most hardworking and diligent woman I have ever met.” my mom would say, “When she worked on the farm there were no breaks for her.”
“What about on the weekends, though?” I’d ask.
“Well, the cows don’t stop producing milk on the weekend do they? Busha was committed to her farm. One day there was a huge ugly storm that brewed over the farm. There was a tornado and everything! Busha was always a stubborn woman though, and nothing fazed her. She walked right on out to the barn while the tornado threatened it’s existence. She milked those cows until she was finished because that was the kind of woman she was. She really felt any responsibility was her obligation; tornado or not.”
This story my mom always tells me never fails to make me laugh. However, It also makes me reflect upon myself . If Busha was willing to milk all of her cows in the middle of a tornado, I think a test for any of my classes is a small feat.
Now that I am older and in shape, I can appreciate the process of Kruschiki making. When I was little, I only stood by observing the process and would dance around in anticipation for my polish cookies. Today, as I try to make the cookies with my two big sisters and mom, I dread the kneading. I start out enjoying the softness of the dough in my hands, but over time the dough becomes thick under pressure. My arms tell my body it isn’t worth it, but my tongue and memories say otherwise. One by one, my sisters and I take turns kneading the dough. In my Busha’s case, however, She was able to knead by herself. I still have trouble grasping this concept. Although she was a little woman and seemed frail because of her age, she never let time define her. She was capable of anything through hard work. She was capable of anything because she celebrated life.
Kruschiki has become nostalgia for my sisters and I. We lay the dough out gently like Busha would and quickly cut rectangle dough pieces. Small slits are made in the center and our fingers dance around each premature cookie to make them into wings. When I place the wings into the frying pan the oil pops around the many cookies as if they are singing to me; I am reminded that hard work is important, family is important, and life must be appreciated.
My sisters and I are close to the final products as we snatch the cookies out of the hot oil. We lay them on paper towel and lightly dust an even coat of powdered sugar. The golden wings quickly become and brilliant white. The first cookie is always the most important. I stare at the cookie and I take a deep breath in to savor the smell. As I bite down into the crispy and sweet cookie there is only one thought in my mind: Busha.