Happy Birthday, Gramma Marge
My first memory of Gramma Marge was getting lost together in Lansing, Michigan as we tried to find the hospital where my little brother had been born. Why do I remember this episode? The fear? The danger? The sense of unease?
I remember my grandmother laughing. Hysterically. Nonstop.
It's really a wonder we ever found the hospital at all. Because as long as I've known her, Gramma Marge has been three things:
1. An adventurer
2. A storyteller
Sure she's a whiz on the organ and makes coconut trix bars like nobody's business, but the real fun with Gramma Marge is that she has always been willing to do something she's never done before (moving from the Upper Peninsula to Chicago as a twentysomething to navigating new cities and new destinations to riding on the back of a four wheeler when I, her 16 year old grandson wanted to take her trail-riding through the woods).
I've spent hours listening to her stories about growing up on the farming plains of the Upper Peninsula, about playing piano on the radio as a girl, about visiting Detroit as a teenager, about discovering startling secrets about her parents, about her the death of my Uncle, her 14 year old son. Her memories feel like they are woven into the fabric of my own memory -- the images, ideas, actions and relationships are so strong.
Last year at Christmas we sat in a quiet corner of my parents' very loud house and she asked me: Why does it seem like yesterday fades before I wake up, but everything that happened to me when I was ten years old feels as fresh as it did right then? I feel so bound to her past in so many ways, but my own choices to break from family tradition and the past give a similar queasy sense of disequilibrium: not too unlike what she describes. We are both far from what is familiar and the familiar seems so strange.
But there is great comfort in the distant familiar and it's something we both treasure together.
It's her birthday today, and I know I'm not only really lucky to have a Gramma Marge, but to have had her for so many years. Happy Birthday Gramma!