I always thought she looked like the fairy godmother in Snow White. Despite her advancing age, my paternal grandmother still has a kind smile and a luxurous headful of long, curly blonde hair. "Not important", she says, whenever someone compliments her appearance. "My looks are a gift from my parents. Judge me by my own talents". Stubborn, hard-working and opinionated to a fault, my grandmother Beth has been one of the most positive influences in my life.
I can't remember a time when she didn't take me to work with her on Saturdays. She owns a small ice cream shop on Manhattan's Lower East Side, the kind of place where there are still jukeboxes in the booths and real syrup flowing from Coca-Cola fountains. Long after her peers stopped working and retired to sunny beaches in Florida, my grandmother Beth still runs her business 6 days a week. " Work is good for the soul", she insists, keeping the shop as pristine as the day it first opened.
I marvel at her stamina. My job is to clean the booths after customers leave and keep the floor spic-and-span. Despite being four times my age, she still runs circles around me.
I never learned much about Beth's life from my parents, only that it was a shame that she had it so hard. She was a single parent at a young age, after losing my grandfather to cancer. The ice cream shop was her only source of income and her only education. She worked her entire life to make the future better for her family. My parents often say what a shame it is that she never got an education. "What she could have accomplished", they muse, "If she had made something of her life".
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