I remember her wiping up the chocolate milk I had splattered across the table from blowing bubbles into the straw. I remember her garden and the myriad of flowers and stepping stones I’d run through as a child, pretending that anything that wasn’t dirt was a pit of lava. I remember sleepovers and s’mores and stargazing. Castles and cooking. I remember her being the hero in my fairy tales, and although she was my grandmother, she wasn’t any less of a playmate or a friend.
I moved one thousand three hundred twenty five miles away from Oregon at the age of 6 and I’ve found myself here again at 18. A lot can happen in 12 years, and with only seeing each other every couple years, and with the occasional phone calls on holidays, we grew apart. Even after all this time, she’s remained a protagonist in my story.
Eileen Joyce Brunette. Rochester, New York. 1947. My grandmother grew up in a dysfunctional home where alcoholism was very much present. Her family never had a lot of money, but they always had each other. They remained close through the years. My grandmother was the youngest of eight siblings. There was a lot of love and a lot of caring and most of their time was spent with each other. Her schooling began in a one room schoolhouse in the country, where one teacher taught two or three grades in the room. After second grade she attended public school until grade 7. In grades eight through twelve, she went to a private Catholic school, and attended Catholic college for two years following high school. Between high school and college she worked as a bank teller. After college she worked at Xerox for five years.
When asked about her childhood, she smiled and laughed about the country life. She’d play with worms and ants and sticks. Ducks, pigs, cows, and sheep made fun companions. When she was young she wanted to be a “mommy” and that’s what she became. She married my grandfather in the year 1970 at the age of 23. She became a mother and a homemaker, and at that time that was considered one of the best things that a woman could be.
When I asked her how the world is different now from when she was a child, she laughed and grabbed her coffee mug before noting “The whole world is going to hell in a hand basket on a fast train.”
Noting that her family didn’t have the income level as others around her growing up, she wasn’t sure how to answer a question for what life was generally like at the period in which she was a child. Living well below the poverty level, she didn’t have the commodities that other families did, but they didn’t really care either. It was country life and they had each other. The most important inventions to her, made in her lifetime were medical advancements and of course, the internet. Although the internet doesn’t provide much use for her personally, she thinks the world has benefited from it, and from the communication aspects that have come along with it.
The day I interviewed her we baked carrot cupcakes together and I was brought back to the times where my height only reached her waist and I’d have to reach across the kitchen counter with my tiny little hands to help. Sometimes you forget that everyone older than you was once your age. I’ve always admired my grandmother, but after delving into her past and her family life, I have a deeper understanding for why she is the way she is today.
***I wrote this for an assignment for a college class.