The first page of Grandma's journal
I'm a memory keeper! I always have been and always will be. Its what drove me to poke around in those old wardrobes and cedar chests in my grandparents' basement all those years ago. I'm attracted to anything old, aging or sentimental.
I'm also a story-teller. It goes hand in hand with being a memory keeper.
My grandmother must have recognized me for who I was, long before I ever did. I don't know if it was the questions I asked as a child, or if she just saw something familiar when she looked into my eyes. Either way, she knew and she nurtured it. I suppose that's why she took the time to sit quietly and talk to me; to share things. She too, was a memory keeper.
She called me her Little Pink Rosebud & I called her Grommie
When my grandparents sold their home and retired to Florida, they had an estate sale and sold just about everything they owned - furniture and all.
I remember the panic I felt when I realized that the chest and wardrobes were gone. Gone, along with all those memories. Gone, along with the old Christmas ornaments that had been spirited off to the Salvation Army a few years before. I felt betrayed. Lost. Like a life-line to the past had been severed, casting me adrift in an ocean of uncertainty, into the present with no anchor.
At my first birthday party
Unbeknownst to me at the time, the contents of the cedar chest had been transferred to a cardboard box, and relocated to my aunt's house north of Pittsburgh. It was a relief to find that I only had to pull down the attic steps and climb upstairs to find my box. My anchor.
For years, whenever my grandmother and I were in Pittsburgh together, we'd go through the box. I'd ask the same questions over and over, and she'd tell the same stories, over and over. Now and then, she'd make a present of a photo or two. It touched me that she trusted me enough to take care of them.
Just waking from a nap to find my Grandma visiting
One year, she told me she had a project for us. She wanted me to help her sort the photos into piles for each of her five children. Certain photos she held back. Those that meant the most to her, I suppose.
On a trip we took together to Colorado
When I was in my teens, I gave Grandma a grandparent's journal, and asked her to fill it with the stories that I knew only she could tell. I thought she seemed a little overwhelmed by the blankness of the pages. Sometimes she could be a little hard to read. We never talked of the new journal again.
My high school graduation
When we met for the funeral of Grandma's sister Helen, I went up to the attic and brought down the box. Something was different about the way Grandma handled her photos this time. She was pensive and there was a purposefulness about her. I got a pen and asked her to document the names of the people in the photos and their relationship to each other. Most of the photos had already been marked. We took care of the ones that weren't.
We spent extra time looking at her old brown Memory Book, on that visit. She told me more stories about her dating days. I noticed the pages were starting to splinter and tear away.
Shortly after her death, my mother, my aunts and I, drove to Florida to help my Grandfather sort though Grandmother's things. While doing so, I found the blank journal I'd given her years before. I opened it and found, to my surprise, that she had filled the pages. I was ecstatic. Grandma had left me more than I could hope for - a piece of herself.
Apparently, Grandma had put the journal away for many years. Around the time of her sister's death, she began writing. Grandpap said that she wrote in it religiously for months on end. As her health began to decline, however, her interest in the journal waned, until she put it aside for ever.
I read and reread that journal and I cherish every word she committed to paper. Its part of her legacy to me and our family.
Today, I await the birth of my first granddaughter and I pray that I will have as endearing a relationship with my own Little Rosebud, as I had with my dear little Grommie. I know that she is with me, in spirit, as I wait - for another little memory keeper.
Postscript: Papap said that Grandma guarded her written word with a vengeance and never let him read a single page of her journal.