Thursday, October 28, 2010

Celebrating Pearl

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!


  1. how special! and i love your blog and way of life. definitely a dream of ours.

    the sleepy time gal

  2. My great grandmother lived to be 102. She was called home from boarding school during the flu epidemic of 1918 to care for her brothers and sisters when their parents passed away. She was 16. This post made me think of her and how much I miss her. She always had a hard candy for me and sent me five dollars in a birthday card every year until she died.

    Stephanie :)

  3. How beautiful...I have now lost all my grandparents. My paternal grandfather, the last to go, died in June, and would have turned 90 on 10-10-10. My dad's mom, also known as GG to the great grandkids, was also the life of a party (she had a rather ribald sense of humor and I was told not to give her my email address, or I would end up with forwarded dirty jokes!). I love your tribute to Pearl...

  4. What a gorgeous, proud lady.

    My Nan is 82 and the love of my life. She loves me just the way I am, taught me to knit and never goes by a day that I don't think of her and how much I miss and adore her. She lives in England right now and will be moving over stateside to be with her family in December. My daughter also calls her GG. A much better name than Grammy that my aunt was trying to get her to call her.

    Beautiful post. I am sure you do her very proud.

  5. I love your writing, you are pure inspiration.
    thank you so much for sharing your story.

  6. My Nan is Pearl as well, and we think of her much the same! A lovely post as always!!

  7. damn it, I'm nearly crying again and it's not even midday...xo

  8. Your words and that last picture are making me weepy! I'm so happy that you and your babes were able to spend part of the day with Grandma. My memories are the same as yours and it is so wonderful to read them here in "print".
    I wish I could have been there yesterday but we did phone last night and the girls sang to her then. Grandma was anxious to get the card game started so we didn't chat long! :)

  9. P.S. The pic of Violet Pearl on the back of Grandma's chair is STELLAR.

  10. Steph,a beautiful post.Marilyn and I read it and both described her so perfectly..You brought back so many memories for me.She has been such a presence in my life and I do see her nearly every day that I don't think mother in law is the right word to use for all she means to me. How lucky I am.

  11. aw, my great grandmother was g.g. too. this is a lovely post honoring yours. i love her name.

  12. Her name is music. Your words are music.


  13. What a beautiful post! It is truly a gift when grandparents get to know their great-grandkids.
    I am taking this post as the kick in the butt to drop what I am doing and send my grandma (89) the letter I have been meaning to write all week.
    Thank you.

  14. So sweet! Hoping your granny has the best year ever!


  15. My great auntie Bubby passed away in Dec. 2008. If it wasn't for her legacy, I wouldn't be living in the building I purchased here in Killaloe, or running the businesses with which I serve the community. I miss lying on her bed with her...listening to stories, sharing even the silence. I love you, Bubby!
    Bless your time with Pearl.
    Peter Benner


This space is a creative outlet for a busy mama; I warmly embrace your comments and feedback, as well as questions/requests for details. I do check them daily and will respond where appropriate! Thank you for visiting the Knitty Gritty Homestead!