Marta Glasses

The above is a picture of two glasses. In our house, they’re known as the “Marta Glasses.” I absolutely love them. Really, I love the story.

My Grandma Marta died in 1999. She was an 86-year-old German woman whose mother died in Nazi Germany. My mom (her daughter) was raised in a building on 181st Street in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. My mom and her folks (Marta and Curt) lived on the fifth floor of an ancient brick building. Their apartment was pretty big, with creaky wooden floors and a radiator that sang out noises from the rear bedroom. The place smelled, to me, like sweet potatoes.

I digress. My grandma was a wonderful woman. Beyond wonderful. She also was, well, cheap and thrifty. Hence, once day in the mid-to-late 1980s, she walked through the lobby and found a set of four perfectly good drinking glasses. Unlike most people, who wouldn’t have touched them, Grandma placed them in her purse and carried them up to her apartment.

For years and years and years, I would beg my grandma to tell me about the glasses. I’m not sure why—was I making fun of her (probably)? Admiring her (in this case, probably not)? Did I just find it funny? Undeniably.

Anyhow, the day my grandma died was one of the worst in my life. She wasn’t just an elderly figure; she was my friend. I tried to see her every 10 days or so, and she’d always greet me with a chocolate bar. When she passed, I was the first relative to her apartment. I still remember—and will likely always remember—seeing her on her bed, lifeless. That image still stings.

When we eventually got to cleaning out her apartment, I took a few things. A plant. Her scarf. And, best of all, the glasses—renamed “Marta Glasses” by my wife. Two cracked in the ensuing years, but two remain. They’re faded, and surely won’t survive another decade or two. But my kids drink out of them regularly, and both know of their namesake.

4 thoughts on “Marta Glasses”

  1. When my Grandparents both passed away we went through their things. The only thing I wanted was my Grandfathers mug. Plain old small white mug with thick sides and a thick handle.
    It was in the Goodwill pile.
    Nobody could understand why I wanted that mug.
    Every time I see it, I see my grandpa; sipping coffee as we fiddled in his garage, or his garden.
    I was 2 when he retired. I became his retirement project.
    The cup is too small for me to use, but I remember my grandpa sipping his coffee.

  2. My great-grandma was born in Pennsilvaina. Get this, my great-great grandma and grandpa came from Italy and started a hotel in the late 1800’s. My great-great grandma hated America and moved back to Italy. My great grandma didn’t come back to the USA until my Grandma was 12 years old. They made it to Ellis Island on the last boat accepted from Italy until after World War II.

    My grandmother got sick with some awful from of dementia around 1990. She died in 1995. My great grandma hung in there with us until 1997. She was never the same after my grandma died.

    The point of all this is that I was thinking of my great grandma the other day when I was watching the Italy vs. England match. Since the 1994 World Cup I have always pulled for Italian soccer. In 94 my great grandma was living with us and we watched as much Italy soccer as we could. She loved it. She talked about my great grandpa and how much he loved soccer and how he would cuss at the set when watching the games. When we watched the final, my grandma was so nervous. She didn’t see very well and this was long before HD so I had to basically provide a second play by play for her. When Roberto Baggio kicked the ball over the net and Brazil won I was crushed. Grandma shed a few tears and swore in Italian before retreating to her room to call her sister and have a heated conversation in Italian.

    Since then, despite being only a casual soccer fan (I watch little club soccer and only get emotionally invested when Italy is playing) my heart beats so hard anytime Italy plays.

    In a way, Italy soccer is my version of the glasses that you have from your grandma. That is what my grandma left me. (Well that and a recliner that served me well all through college).

    When Italy won the 2006 World Cup on penalties I went to grandmas grave the next day and told her all about it. I gave her the play by play one more time and this time no one kicked it over the net. I stood there telling her about the amazing extra time against Germany and the headbutt and penalties finally going our way.

    I miss her. I wish she could come over on Thursday to watch Italia take on the mighty Germans. I am just rambling now but thanks for sharing your story about the glasses. It came at a perfect time for me to relate.

  3. Jeff — I really enjoyed this post, thanks. My most treasured belongings are things that belonged to a family member that have some kind of similar story behind it. I have a pair of cowboy boots that belonged to my grandfather, a charismatic guy who went on to achieve great entrepreneurial success in his hometown of Tulsa, OK, despite only having an eighth grade education (he had to drop out to support his family). He passed away when I was a senior in college, and I’ve never met a kinder, more caring individual. I think about him still, at least once a week. The boots, one of the last pairs he owned before he passed away due to cancer (he was a real cowboy, loved horses, for a long time owned a ranch, and was also prone to Bolo ties) sits near my desk in my home office.

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