My maternal grandmother died when I was ten years old, yet she has had a profound influence on my life and continues to be my role model in so many ways.
As a young girl, I basked in her love. I knew she thought I was perfect. To an anxious little girl, she inspired strength and confidence. In her eyes, I did not have to fight for a place in this world – I was her world. In her home, I was special and cherished. So different than in my home where I often felt forgotten in the everyday rush of family living. In my home, I always seemed to be in trouble, no doubt in my unending quest for attention. I loved Grandma and her house because there was no one else, and because I did not have to prove myself to her. She simply loved me and I loved her in return.
One of my most vivid memories of Grandma is of a shopping trip she we went on together. We were in a store which had rows of beautiful dresses. Grandma told me to pick out a dress. After wandering up and down the aisles I narrowed my choice down to two dresses. I loved them both and I just could not make up my mind which one I wanted. I turned to Grandma for help in choosing. She looked at both dresses, holding them up by the hangers, examining them front and back, and declared to the salesclerk, “We’ll take them both”! I felt so special! Only my cherished grandma would buy me two dresses at once.
She continues to inspire me today because of the independence and strength she always possessed. She spent her early adulthood traveling and didn’t marry or start a family until well into her thirties – unheard of in the early twentieth century. She truly was a woman ahead of her time. Born in Jura, France by the Swiss border, she enjoyed a good life and loved to travel, especially to Paris. She travelled, alone, to Canada, where she met and married Grandpa and they had two daughters. Even as a mother, she maintained her independence, again proving herself to be a woman ahead of her time. She returned to Paris several times over the years, travelling alone, leaving Grandpa and her daughters at home. She came home with pictures, post cards and mementos of her travels, which found their way into trunks in the attic. I loved climbing the stairs leading to her attic to discover the treasures hidden there. I spent many afternoons in that attic, searching through the trunks, and pulling out Grandma’s “treasures” –souvenirs of Paris, of the Paris World Fair, of the Eiffel Tower and of Jura. I would drag these treasures down the attic stairs and Grandma and I would look through them together. Without fail, she always told me to “just keep everything” and so I would return home with my suitcase filled with mementos of my Grandmother’s travels. All these years later, I still have those wonderful souvenirs and I treasure them as much today as I did when I was nine years old.
Grandma was a strong, independent woman long before society encouraged women to be that way. She was the perfect grandmother and the one person who always, always gave me unconditional love. As the years have gone by, I have never forgotten my love for her or forgotten how wonderful it was to be loved by her. She truly was a woman ahead of her time, but to a little girl, she was simply the best Grandma in the world.