Monday, October 7, 2013

A Grandmother's Cross--Just in Case

Looking for a necklace today I found, in the bottom of my jewelry box, an old cross that had belonged to my grandmother. Thin, worn, maybe two kinds of gold with a dark intricate Jesus on the cross. It’s a crucifix.

For years this cross was in a small old-fashioned change purse that my mother had saved from her mother's things. I was told as a kid that this small change purse with its cross, old coins, a broken trunk from a china elephant and other small trinkets were what my grandmother Josephine took with her to poker games.

What I realized today when I lifted her necklace from the jewelry box was that it really didn’t make any sense for my grandmother to have a crucifix. She was German, and she was from a Jewish family that at some point began to hide their Jewishness. But even after arriving in America Josephine was part of a Protestant Church—The Evangelical United Brethren. So why a crucifix?

But I knew why--because she was a gambler.  Josephine was a skilled and successful poker player. She bet the odds, took chances, risked it all, dared and she often won the pot. Josephine provided for my mother’s family through the Great Depression when her husband was out of work  by playing cards every night in smoky halls surrounded by rough men.

I never met Josephine. She died when my mother was 19 years old. But a psychic once told me that Josephine was my guardian that she was always near me.  I want that to be true now. I still need Josephine’s energy and her spirit and most of all her survival skills. A German Jew playing poker, rolling cigars, bringing home money to her family and holding tight to a small satin coin bag with a crucifix --just in case. That’s heroism and I need that grandmother now in my life--just in case.

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