My grandmother Poni was born in 1889, and when she became a teenager, she was determined to graduate from high school. Her parents thought that it would be a waste of time for a girl to be so educated, and they discouraged her. With a streak of stubbornness that did not sit well with her mother and father, Poni persevered and earned her diploma around 1907. If I recall correctly, she was the first in her family to finish high school. Afterward, Poni wanted to be a journalist. Her mother’s response? “Oh, dear, why would you want to stick your nose into everyone’s business?” Instead, her parents encouraged her to raise a family, which she eventually did. Of course, In those days, she didn’t have an easy choice to be both a journalist and a mother.
My grandmother had beautiful florid handwriting and she wrote wonderfully descriptive letters to my family. She missed her calling to be a writer, but she remained devoted to learning, especially in the form of reading books.
My grandmother told me several times, “If you have a book, you’ll never be lonely.” Poni was a voracious reader, and I remember seeing her working her way through very thick books that awed me as a child; it was her choice of leisure reading. Poni used to read easily, but as an old woman, her sight had diminished and she struggled to see the pages. Still, determined as ever, Poni often sat in a chair with a novel or biography, and she would lean toward the bright light of a window or lamp, squint through her reading glasses and simultaneously look through a large magnifying glass that she held in her hand, just to read the words on the page. I felt bad that reading had become so difficult for her. I hoped that books kept her from being lonely when my family was not visiting her (we lived out-of-state and went infrequently), but I had my doubts.
Poni passed on her love of reading to my father, who often walked around with plays or sonnets of Shakespeare in his pocket, and to me, who, as an adult, has usually had a stack of library books on hand and has avidly listened to recorded books while running, driving, and doing chores. It is only at this moment, as I am persevering with the Slice of Life writing challenge, that I realize that Poni passed on to me her enthusiasm for writing, as well. I hope that I can do her justice.