The unlikely love story of my grandparents
| Her name was Mary. His was Adam. Their meeting unlikely.|
She escaping a marriage to the master saddle maker for the emperor of Astro-Hungary. An older man of wealth who left his wife for her then beauty. Her red hair flowing down to the floor. Brushed one hundred times each night curled up and away into the tight bun each day. She finding him oppressive suddenly left the splendor of their home in Budapest boarding a steam ship fleeing to America. Once free with New York all around her, unable to support herself, became a house maid with a wealthy family where the husband also found her beauty overwhelming. Her access to the treasures there easily accessible. She helped herself selling them to increase her wealth as was common of Eastern European women in the earlier 1900s.
He, following in his father's ways, signed a one-year contract to be transported by steam ship to Ohio to work in the foundry there as a master mold maker. The owners coming to the far eastern regions of what was then Austro-Hungary to hired for transportation, meals, housing and a wage shiploads of skilled craftsmen school in the Bulgarian ways of mold making. It was a job that could not be done by those in the area. Hot, sweaty days and lonely nights. But he, as his father had done twice before him, went in order to bring back enough money to buy more pigs for their small farm in Opatovac along the Danube in what would become Yugoslavia then Croatia. He year of constant perspiration, exhaustion and filth nearly over. He booked for himself a ticket on the Cunard line in steerage to come him in relative luxury rather than accept the cramped quarters among the company ships shoulder to shoulder with desperate hungry men.
A knock in the door in 1909. She is confronted. All Eastern European house maids, considered by the Mayor of New York at the time to be nothing more than prostitutes and thieves, were being mass deported. The officer in uniform and badge telling her not to be here when he came back to formally serve papers.
So, it was on a Cunard ship booked from New York to Flume 1909 that they both ended up traveling in the bowels of a great rolling vessel. Steerage passengers separated into shared male and female quarters divided into cabins with bunks for six. Here Adam broke out a flask to help him with the sickness that came from the rolling waves felt but never seen. He passed the flask around and then did what can naturally breaking into song. Singing from his childhood in Hungarian folk songs he loved to calm and lift his spirits.
It was then, she hearing the words of her youth through cabin walls joined him. Her voice he later would describe over and over well after his one hundredth year as that of a common wood pigeon mixed with that of an angel.
And the sang together through the walls many nights until one night Adam gained the courage to sneak into the women's quarters and knocked on the door. As this was forbidden, he was kicked out but Mary, always bold, her beautiful red hair combed down long to the floor then twisted up in a beautiful bun never left his mind. He a son of a wealthy hog farmer in a small town. The girls there laughing at him always smelling of feces no matter what else he had to offer causing him to fear never being able to earn himself a wife.
It was she who knocked the next night. Women visiting the male quarters not against the rules. And they sang and drank and were married aboard the ship. He stopping in Opatovac only to leave his new bride at his parents' house as he again singed a one year contract to go back to Ohio, this time to earn the $110 dollars required to bring his Mary back to America.
So, he worked and ten months later sent the money required. Mary boarded a ship to Baltimore in December 1910. Arriving there traveling by train to Akron. They waited until somehow mysteriously a letter came. A death notice of Mary's husband in Budapest. Taken suddenly ill from a disease never again mentioned. The illness her brother coming to the husband's home, as doubly married went against society, so one had to be chosen with poison slipped into a drinking flask. Only then, after another two months, traveling to Chicago where she and Adam made a home. There, he bought her a house on Loomis Street and she bore him four children. The last, my father.