There was no one else like my Grandma Jackson.
She was, from start to finish, a class act.
Because I am named for her she is inextricably tied up in my birth story, the one my mom used to tell me every year on my birthday. How my mom called up my grandmother when I was born to give her the news… and she asked who was calling and my mom said “the mother of Elizabeth Jackson” and at first my grandmother didn’t understand because that was HER name and then she figured out that her first grandchild had been born and had been named for her and she went and had a moment and then began bragging wildly to all her friends who were over at her house playing bridge.
When my brother was born my frandmother came to our house to help out and she taught me to make scalloped potatoes and I still make them today, the same way she did.
We didn’t always live nearby but we used to visit her every year in the summer and to me her little stucco house in LA was paradise on earth. It was always sunny and she would have made me a new dress and her backyard would be full of the roses she grew and she’d make her famous lemon meringue pie from lemons she grew in her yard and I still remember a time she took me to the grocery store and when I asked her if I could get some Klondike bars, she said sure and put them in the cart. I’d never had a Klondike bar before. I still remember that day and how it felt. It felt like pure love. Because it was, I think.
When my sister was born and my mother called people to tell them that Annie had Down Syndrome my Grandmother Jackson was the one person who didn’t act as if some sort of death sentence had been handed down. She reacted as she had to the news of all her other grandchildren – with congratulations and love. My mother still talks about it and how much it meant to her.
No one was ever a greater advocate for my sister than my grandmother – no one was ever more patient. It’s a cliché and old fashioned but my grandmother tried hard to teach both me and my sister what it meant to be a lady and a decent human being, in the best of ways.
She always wrote thank you notes. She wrapped packages without any tape, so the paper could be reused. She wouldn’t buy grapes. Whenever I would come to visit she would just “happen” to have three or four desserts on hand to offer me. She taught me to make Christmas ornaments out of Lifesavers and she loved to play Rummikub.
My Grandma Jackson died about five years ago from lung cancer. I still think of her all the time. I still sleep under a king size quilt she made by hand. She never owned a sewing machine. This weekend I made some very simple baby blankets for our impending arrival because I was just plain sick of blue fleece and as I was stitching and pinning and folding I thought of my grandmother and I wished, purely and simply, that she were here. I wish she knew that her great grandson was about to be born.
And then I thought maybe, in some small way, in the stitch of a baby blanket, in the fold of a seam, maybe she is here after all.
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