On this day, in 1918, a baby girl was born in Toronto, Ontario. She was the firstborn in her family, and was named Pearl Isabella. When World War One ended weeks later, "Victory" was tagged on to her name.
Today that little girl turned 92. We gathered in my mother's kitchen to celebrate this woman, my father's mother, my grandmother, known to our children as "GG". Jude laboured over a card, proud of having printed those two letters, and the drawings he made: of GG opening a gift, her bellybutton proudly on display (every person and creature in his drawings has a bellybutton). Above this cartoonish figure was a bubble filled with heart stamps. I asked Jude what this bubble was. "GG's wonderings" was his response.
We ate soup and sandwiches. Grandma's favourite sandwich is cucumber and onion, and in honour of her birthday I had one, too, on white bread with lots of mayonnaise, salt, and pepper. Delicious! When I was a little girl, I would occasionally walk to Grandma's house from school, just for the lunch hour. We always ate sandwiches: peanut butter and banana, or cucumber. Often, there was soup, and always a quick game of cards before I hurried back to school.
As her 16 grandchildren adored her (and still do!), our children adore her. She revels in their attention and hugs. This woman always wears earrings, a necklace, and lipstick to match her sweater. She always carries her purse and places it beside her, wherever she sits. She's becoming a bit forgetful, but loves to visit and eat and play cribbage (but not when she loses and owes my parents her spare change). She takes afternoon naps, forgets what she ate for breakfast, and gets fresh-baked coconut cream tarts from my sister almost weekly. She used to be able to recite the United States alphabetically when we were kids, and always felt that doing crosswords kept her mind sharp.
From her, I learned the value of writing thank-you notes. I learned to dip green onions in salt, and play Go Fish. I loved her pink bathroom. I wasn't allowed to chew gum in her livingroom. She used to make ice-cream sundaes for us when we'd come for dinner. She always laughed when my Grandpa teased her. She's been a widow for 22 years now, and Grandpa was the only man she ever loved. She raised four children, lost one, and is known locally as the life of the party. When I was single and in my 20s, I used to joke that she had a busier social life than I; when I'd try to book an afternoon visit with her, she'd always rebuff my offer in favour of lawn-bowling, a card party, or a trip somewhere.
When I feel miffed about those little lines that are appearing on my face, and those silver strands, I will remember this photo, and the woman who gave my dad curly hair, who passed it to me, who then passed it to Margot. What a blessing, to live long enough to have your life's experiences sketched on your face, and to see your youth over and over with the generations that descend from you.
Happy Birthday, Pearl Isabella Victory Conway Keon! May you live to see 100!