Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Where, alack, shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid?

Jewel Estelle Jacobus 
December 7, 1921 - June 28, 2011

So, i've been invisible, and now you know why: my grandmother died at the end of June.  We were quite close; i'd spent all my summers with her as a child, and ever since then we always got on pretty well (at least as long as we stayed away from politics, where our views... diverged somewhat).  I know, the post title's maybe a bit over the top, but Grandma's given name really was Jewel - her father was a jeweler - most people called her "Julie," not realizing that it derived from "Jewel E."

I'll have lots of Grandma Stories to share, no doubt, but for now, just a sketch and some photos...

Grandma spent most of her life living by the water, and it's probably safe to say that about 75% of the pictures of her involve bathing suits or boats or both.  She was a strong swimmer, athletic, quite pretty - she used to mention, perhaps more often than was, strictly speaking, necessary - that she had been elected "Miss Millburn" in 1939, in the New Jersey town where she grew up.  (I'm still trying to hunt up something to give me more information about that last tidbit - so far, local newspapers and the historical society have come up dry...)

She was lively, bright, opinionated, stubborn, and interested in everyone around her.  She was a daddy's girl all her long life, so though her father died before i was born, i heard so many stories - with the more interesting ones surfacing only as i got older.  She learned painting from him, and was a fair hand at drawing, design, sewing, cooking when she had a mind to, and other creative skills.  She was quick with figures - she worked mostly in insurance - and if i had half her flair for managing money, i'd probably be quite a bit better off now than i am.  She taught me thrift, though, from reusing packaging to combing thrift stores to foraging for food.

And if you thought you had Grandma figured out, she'd surprise you, whether it was a political opinion at odds with her usual party line, or some wildly unexpected choice.  Last fall, after not having had a pet since my mother was a kid, she shocked the entire family by deciding to adopt a tiny kitten - and she doted on the little thing, a grey and white longhaired ball of fluff.  Grandma was always a pretty fussy housekeeper, but the kitten was permitted to have a favorite hiding place in the kitchen cabinet.  (The ball of fluff, no longer so tiny, is now living with me...)
Mainly, though, Grandma always managed to have fun.  That photo has "Hallowe'en 1944" written on the back, in Grandma's handwriting.  The story is that they had no money to spare for costumes - she and my grandfather had married just a few months before - so they went as each other, she in his Navy uniform, and he in one of her suits.  (Obviously, no one ever taught Grandpa how to sit in a skirt, but aren't his knees cute?)

She taught me to swim and to sail and to water ski, to wear the good jewelry (what else was it for?), and she let me do my own thing a lot, which was really instructive in a place like her shore house.  She started passing on jewelry her father had made, as soon as my sister and i were old enough that she figured we wouldn't lose it.  That's both of us with Grandma and Grandpa, after my sister's christening, so mid-1970s - in the first of the dreaded matched dresses my mother made us.
Funny how their smiles didn't change over all those years.  We should all be so lucky.

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