San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

SMCGS Sharing Stories 2017

My Roommate

June Baxter


My head was filled with thoughts of summer drawing to a close and the scary new world of junior high school looming ahead, when my parents announced that my grandmother, who had not seen me since I was nine months old, would soon be coming to share my bedroom with me.

I happily asked, “Will she play cards with me?” They smiled and said probably not.

Soon my room was reconfigured—my shelves went to the garage, childish drawings came down from the walls, a drawer and a portion of the tiny closet were emptied to hold her few garments. None of this really mattered to me, for as an only child, I was looking forward to having a roommate!

Sweet Anna Mary Krecek Pazderka, age 84 years (to my 12), made the long journey by bus from Omaha, Nebraska, to Palo Alto, California, with my mother’s older brother, Jim. I had not seen photos nor even talked on the phone with her.

As I look back now, I wonder what her thoughts were as she left the only home she had known since traveling with her family from then-Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) when she was about five years old. I’m sure she was delighted to finally be able to spend time with her precious daughter, but what about rooming with a pre-pubescent girl?

Once Grandma was safely ensconced in her new abode, I set off with great trepidation to the first day of junior high. I was soon immersed in mountains of homework, accordion lessons, and much to my chagrin, ballroom dancing lessons.

A quiet lady who had led a hard life as a widowed mother of two young children and worked in a meatpacking plant in Omaha to support them, Grandma loved sitting in a chair by the living-room window and gazing across the street at Matadero Creek. She neither read nor played cards, but watched a favorite soap opera on our newly purchased—and first—TV and faithfully dried the dinner dishes every evening.

When Grandma became ill my senior year of high school and my mother sat up with her all night, every night, I either slept on the couch or at our next-door neighbors’. After a few months, she moved to a nursing home just eight miles away; my mother even learned to drive so she could visit every day, with my dad and me accompanying her on weekends.

One day toward the end of May, filled with end-of-year angst, I came home to find my mother and several close friends sitting in the living room. I asked how Grandma was.

(From my diary): “To my greatest sorrow, I learned that my beloved Grandma passed away this morning at 7:00. At first I didn’t cry because I was really glad for her sake—and Mom said that she didn’t have it very easy. Then I really cried. I loved her so…”


Grandma was two months shy of her 90th birthday. It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood and appreciated how she had enriched my life with her quiet resolve, acceptance and gentleness. How grateful I am to have had her as my roommate. April 2017

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June Baxter was born and raised in Palo Alto, lived and raised her three children in Campbell and has now retired to Half Moon Bay. June was a high school English and business teacher for 25 years and currently writes the senior page for the Half Moon Bay Review as well as editing and writing newsletters for the state parks and the HMB history association.  She says she has little genealogical expertise, but her son is exploring her mother's history in Omaha, NE and she hopes to get more involved in the future. 

© 2017 June Baxter - Please contact SMCGS for use of any portion of this story.

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