Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A cautionary tale


Today is my grandmother's birthday. She passed away several years ago and wasn't herself for years before that, so I can't celebrate with her, but I'm thinking about her.

My grandmother is the one I remember telling me stories. She had a carpet, our "magic" carpet, and we'd take trips, with her describing what we saw as we flew. She wrote me silly rhyming poems on my birthdays and stories about a little girl named Jacqui who had all kinds of amazing adventures. The New Girl...And Me is dedicated to her, but she never saw it or knew, really, that it was going to happen.

My grandmother, like all grandmothers, had a fascinating life. Even as her health deteriorated, we were learning secrets from her past, bits of a story that I will never be able to read in full. I bought my grandmother several journals. I begged her to let me interview her with a video camera, an audio tape, or at least a pen and paper. She was always going to write her own story; she had dreamed, as a child, of being a journalist, and in a different generation, with more resources at her disposal, she'd have been marvelous.

But, she said, she could never get it right. She worried it wouldn't be any good. She worried she couldn't do it. She'd start next year.

You know the end: for all her worrying about getting it right, she never got it written.

I wouldn't have cared if it weren't perfect, of course. I just wish I had the story.

And yes, that's me in the picture. I look like I'm pouting but I may be trying not to crack up. Nice bowl cut, eh? And the wallpaper! Gotta love the 70s. Amazingly, I rock my children to sleep on that rocking chair still.

14 comments:

Colorado Writer said...

This is awesome.

My grandma passed away 5 years ago today. She was full of spit and vinegar, a clean freak, a great cook, and she loved the crap out of me, showing it with criticism and disapproval, not hugs.

:)

Diane T said...

Grandmas have all the great stories, because they're about family and people and times you've never seen. Luckily, my late grandmother did write down some of her story; I knew some of it but not all, and the extra bits I learned when they were shared at her funeral just made her more of a hero to me.

I wonder how lasting our own family stories will be in this internet of age. With so many outlets (like our blogs) it is easy to share our stories, but I wonder if any of it will last for our own grandchildren to read someday after we're gone. All the more reason to keep writing and sharing, I guess.

C.R. Evers said...

((((hugs)))) Your Grandmother sounds like she was amazing and left you with amazing memories, even if you don't have them all.


(((big hugs))) for you today!

Christy

Anonymous said...

You were all dressed up to go dancing in this phtograph with your grandmother. She would be 89 today and I still miss her. May my grandchildren have the same fond memories of me someday.

Jacqui said...

CW, strange coincidence. And "full of spit and vinegar" is a great line, as is "loved the crap out of me." Did you get it when you were little, the fact that it was all in love?

Jacqui said...

Diane, I think so. But I sometimes wonder, like you, how much mystery will be left when my grandkids can come to Jacqui's Room archives. Of course, I think that's what people said about the first writing being the demise of oral memories...

Christy, thanks. She was.

J. Thorp said...

Funny: went to an East European deli today and ate a stuffed cabbage roll that recalled one Stella Galubenski -- only not quite as good as hers ...

Sigh. I miss my busia.

Jacqui said...

Anonymous, :)

See everyone? I told you my mom read my blog! I do have a mom; I didn't spring forth as fabulous as I am now from the pages of a book.

Thorp, for Wesie the cabbage was kielbasa and sauerkraut. So good.

Brenda said...

What wonderful memories your grandmother has given you...Hugs...

Kelly said...

Great post. I also wish I'd written down my grandma's stories....
Enjoy your day thinking of this important person in your life!

I had a similar haircut!

Mary Witzl said...

This is a lovely tribute to your grandmother. You were lucky, both in having such a good grandmother who told you stories, and in knowing her. My grandmothers were both gone by the time I was two, but I suspect one might have been a little like Colorado Writer's.

And I like your point: I worry too much about getting it right. I ought to just get it written -- again -- and get it out.

What were they thinking in the 70s anyway? At least you can post your photos; no way am I going to let anyone see my Pixie haircut and what I looked like in a shift.

Sharon Blankenship said...

Jacqui,
Maybe your grandma didn't leave her memoirs, but she left her memories and her passion with you. Who else was a better guide to your writing?
Grandma planted the seed. You grew it.
Sharon

Jacqui said...

Thanks, Brenda and Kelly and Sharon.

Mary, I want photos! I had a SWEET pixie haircut made all the better by the fact that I chopped my own bangs right off my face.

Candace Ryan said...

(: