Grandma’s house was always the hub of activity. She was the matriarch, the nucleus of our ever-growing family.
First, it was the big old white house in Johnston, back when I was little. That was a magic house. I had a personal map of landmarks that I looked for on the drive to Grandma’s house; that’s how I knew when we were close. I’ve forgotten them now, except for the sign shaped like a ballerina on the side of a store, which I know has since been taken down. She had the first floor, and other family members lived on the other floors so there were always people coming and going. A visit to Grandma’s often included seeing cousins and aunts and uncles as well. I knew the legend of when that whole triple-story house moved from one place to another, long before I was born. It was almost unbelievable, but she showed me the yellowing pictures.
As we got older and it got harder for her to manage that big property all alone, she moved into an apartment in my aunt’s house. The old house stayed in our family, but the epicenter of activity shifted to Brown Ave. Aunts and uncles and cousins still came and went frequently; family gatherings were held at my aunt’s house, so Grandma remained in the center of family life.
After I graduated high school and moved to Boston, I saw her less, but every weekend visit home and every school break included visits to Grandma’s. I’d sit on the couch and she’d sit in the recliner, looking older and frailer each time, and we’d have such great conversations. She was the smartest lady I knew; so engaged and knowledgable about the world. She went to Brown, back when it was Brown for the men and their sister school, Pembroke was for the women, and we’d compare college life during The War to college life now. She told me stories, and I told her about my studies and my extracurriculars; she was so interested in what I was doing at school. We discussed Arabic, politics, global affairs, local news, and everything in between.
It’s been a year since she left us, and her apartment is empty and quiet. I still miss her. I was so privileged to have her strong influence in my life for almost 20 years. She came to all of my sister’s and my concerts and plays (and there were many), and read our essays and schoolwork and I know she was proud of us. She always spoke her mind and didn’t mince words (like when my sister cut her hair short), and she was always aware of what was happening in the world. She was fiercely independent and had a sharp sense of humor, and she loved the giant family that revolved around her. That big Winsor family is her legacy, and we love her.
I love you Grandma.