My Anya turned 88 today. Her story is one of joy, love, tragedy and endurance. She is what it means to really live.
Anya means “mother” in Hungarian — as kids, “nagyanya” or “grandmother” was a mouthful. She has a charming Hungarian accent (think wedge-eh-tah-bles, not vegetables), a sense of humor that can send you to the floor in a fit of giggles and stories that would amaze you — did you know I’m related to the Queen? Just ask Anya.
Just last Sunday we reminisced about her first visit to see me at college. She fell in love with my friends, and the feeling was mutual. She told me how moved she was when the girls lined up and waved goodbye with weepy eyes as “our Anya” left the dorm. If you met my Anya, you’d want her to be yours, too.
She has countless stories of a happy childhood in Budapest, and others of unimaginable tragedy during World War II. She loved to learn, explore and make mischief — this has not changed! She hid from soldiers and bombs in basements, fell through a roof and had knee surgery with nothing but a stick to bite on to dull the pain, she witnessed things we couldn’t conjure even in our nightmares, she redefines the word courage.
With an art scholarship and her parents by her side, Anya made her way through the Iron Curtain, survived two years in a refugee camp and ended up where dreams are made: New York City. Then she found love in Trenton.
Anya gave birth to six very loud and loving children in five and a half years — my mom and uncle are the same age for 11 days; my aunt and another uncle are the same age for three. You do the math.
She has 11 grandchildren, one great-grandson, nieces, nephews and friends galore.
She has a pink cell phone, she Skypes, uses email to tell us we don’t call her enough and to connect with family in Hungary (in Hungarian) and in college she used to IM me!
She’s an artist, a writer, a loving mother, a doting wife, a survivor. “A tough bird,” she called herself today. She’s a bundle of never-ending courage, curiosity, love and inspiration.
She’s my Anya. And I wish her a very happy birthday and many many more.