Mother’s Day tribute: Grandma Cora

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Mother’s Day is just around the corner and SFGate wants to honor moms. We’re asking readers to email a special photo of their mother along with a 100-word tribute to moms@sfgate.com by May 8. Please include “Mother’s Day Tribute” in the subject line.

If your actual mom wasn’t the primary mother figure in your life, then tell us about an aunt, a babysitter, a grandmother, a teacher, or anyone who provided you with encouragement, support and wisdom to help you get through life.

Below is a tribute we received from Anthony Sharkey whose Grandma Cora helped raise him. Sharkey writes: “My mom was a single mom, but the two of us had the love and support of Grandma and Grandpa.  They softened for us what would have been a hard life. Grandpa died last year and Grandma’s struggling with the loss of her life’s partner—they were married for 63 years. Below is the tribute I wrote as a reminder to myself of how amazing Grandma is; she is the pillar, the glue, the strength of our family.”

Grandma Cora (Zarate)

Grandma Cora

Grandma’s kitchen. Cellophane packages of merienda are neatly, generously arranged on the table. It is the meeting place of three generations. The center of chatter and storytelling; the epicenter of swirling, savory aromas.

Grandma grew up impoverished. With 11 children in the family, they often went hungry. Wartime. WWII. They often shared a single bowl of rice, which they ate thoughtfully, deliberately, to savor the experience of each grain. They sipped water infused with coffee-grounds soaked many times over. It wasn’t so much the flavor, but the light brown color of coffee that gave them an illusion of substance. It’s just that the amber brown seemed to get lighter and lighter.

Grandma says there were happier times—before-the-war days when my great-grandfather would take risks with the precious few pesos to play the cockfights. They would wait for him to come down the dirt road. If he won, his return home would be swift, his arms overflowing with small containers of food and sweet treats hidden in folds of butcher paper. If he lost…well, then, it was just another day.

Wartime was different. No good days or bad days—just a continuum of what, for Grandma, would be lifelong horror. Great grandmother died of starvation. Grandma lost her childhood at 14 to raise her siblings. I learned to hate war.

We three generations sit around the table, the center of chatter and storytelling. Besides a cruel memento from barbed wire—a deep, shiny scar that scallops her shin–there are no outward signs of what Grandma went through. It’s only that Grandma tells her story for the first time a million times.

In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re hoping to hear about those mother figures who touched your life in some special way. Please send in a photo of your mother (or grandmother or aunt or any mother figure who made a difference in your life) along with a 100-word tribute and we will consider sharing your contribution on SFGate. Send tributes to moms@sfgate.com by May 8. Please include “Mother’s Day Tribute” in your email subject line.

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