Audrey

Audrey was born in south central Illinois soon after the turn of the century. She was a flower child born decades too soon. A liberal open-minded free spirit born from liberal parents in an highly conservative part of the country during a highly conservative time by today’s standards. “She treated everyone equally and held no prejudice” wrote my sister. “She taught her family to live life without bias, to be optimistic, and to never stop learning.” She was a country girl who dreamed of life in the big city if not the world. In her teens she ran off with a friend to the nearest big city, St Louis. She was married at an early age, but it did not last. She left him and divorced at a time when divorce was uncommon.

She then moved to Chicago where she met and married an Filipino man. Interracial marriages were also uncommon at that time. She continued to dream. She studied the city of Paris and people who had travelled there would be convinced she had been there due to her knowledge of the place. She dreamed of drinking cafe au lait on the Champs Elysee. She would have six children with this husband, but would also leave and divorce him.

Her third husband was a Japanese performer who had recently lost his wife and his career. “She was his morning glory who gave new meaning to his life” my father was quoted as saying. She would have another child and in her senior years she lived downstairs from us. Her imaginative nature lended to hours of creative and imaginative play. She would hold meetings of ‘The Endangered Species Society” where we would study animals on the brink of extinction. The meetings were very formal with role being called. We played games like the Grand Prize Game. Just like on the Bozo Circus filmed blocks from our house. During the summer she would sit on the front porch making us clover flower jewelry as we ran to collect more.

Frank & Audrey

As my cousin Cathy said of her “she was way ahead of her time. She got the most out of life, and did exactly what she wanted.”

Many people called her Audrey, but I called her Grandma. Years after her passing, I was fortunate enough to live in Paris. I got to know the city quite well. I wish I could have shared it with her.

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~ by Frank on April 30, 2006.

9 Responses to “Audrey”

  1. Audrey was an avid reader. At one point she had dreams of becoming an attorney. One day she called the University of Chicago law school to express her interest and ask if they could send her a reading list. The U of C was happy to oblige. She eagerly awaited the reading list, but was disappointed to find that she had already read all of those books!

    She could sew clothes by hand without the aid of a pattern. She was an astounding whiz at “Trivial Pursuit.” I have yet to meet anyone who could more quickly solve a brain teaser puzzle or riddle.

    A very attractive woman, she was a major contributor to the good-looking genes in the family gene pool.

  2. Like you I had the benefit and pleasure of growing up with Grandma right at hand, albeit next door rather than downstairs.

    In a storm, she was serenity itself, and at other times almost hysterical with worry over trifles. One of the best things, most comforting things about her was that you could simply just go and be with her. With her you were always welcomed. She didn’t ever pry; which was both good and not good, not good when it seemed like she had her head in the sand. She was in her fashion, a form of unconditional love. In my whole life, I saw her lose her temper only once; my sister had pushed her to the absolute limit. Grandma literally mopped the floor up with the unruly girl. Most other people would have blown a gasket long before Grandma did.

    I don’t recall ever hearing her complain. I once complained to her about graffiti on trees along a hiking trail. Her advice: Raise your sights.

    Her all time favorite sport was daydreaming, and undoubtedly she was the world’s unrivaled champion. I am pleased to report, that in my adulthood, I have become proficient at daydreaming and am glad to have learned at the feet of the master.

    A few days before Grandma died, Mother called us up to come over to have my husband examine her. He thought she should go to the hospital, but she politely refused saying that her things weren’t prepared. On the day she died, you and your sister were at school and your parents were at work. She telephoned me and we had a long talk. Grandma told me “If I had had my good sense, I would have gone to the hospital.” She was in the middle of doing her laundry in order to pack a suitcase to have ready should she need to go to the hospital. As we spoke she was folding clothes to go into the suitcase. She died finishing her laundry shortly afer we had hung up. I was the last person to speak to her.

    Grandma remains one of my all time favorite people. She had a penetrating impact on my life. I am glad to be her namesake.

  3. Mrne, Thanks for sharing your memories. That is one thing that I only knew her when I was a child or teenager. Most of what I know of her as a person comes from those older than I. It would have been interesting to know her when I was an adult or young adult when I was more interested in the people around me, who they are, and what their history has been.

  4. Grandma used to spend afternoons sewing dolls for my Barbie doll. I was amazed that she knew exactly her size and could cut a pattern and make it fit without measuring. Being the pack rat that I am I think I might still have some of those clothes somewhere.

    Audrey was quite a woman. I think of her often and very fondly. She’s been the inspiration for a lot of things in my life and a person that I’ve always wanted to be more like.

  5. oops! I meant she made clothes for Barbie, not dolls.

  6. Nancy,

    Your interest in family history is one of the many things you inherited from her. Speaking for myself and my sisters, we genuinely appreciate all the work you’ve done maintaining, expanding, and researching the family history. I enjoyed reading Tête Rouge’s synopsis of part of your Master’s thesis on Hashi & Osai. Kudos also to cousine Cathy’s work on another branch. I know Grandma would be very proud of all your fine work.

    About the sewing: One summer afternoon, Grandma sewed (created) by hand without a pattern, two summer shirts for me and two for my sister. I think it was that same summer (could have been the next year), Grandma taught us how to mend clothes. She was very patient. The lessons started from learning to how first thread the needle.

    She had a keen interest in fabrics. When I was a child she worked in the upholstery fabric department at the very upscale Marshall Field’s. I don’t know if Field’s still sells fabrics. Her last job was in the fabric department at Goldblatt’s (there were no subsections). I’ve sadly forgotten all the lessons on the various types of fabrics and how they are manufactuered.

    Grandma had an incredible wealth of knowledge, and she also had tremendous humility about it. One never got the feeling that she thought herself a Know-It-All, there was always more to learn about anything and everything. As a child and as an adult, I was often surprised by the things she knew about.

  7. What great stories you all tell of Grandma. She had a memory longer than anyone I have ever known. Her letters to me are some of my greatest treasures.

    The sewing you guys mentioned reminded me of the quilt she made one time. She had everybody sign it and she embroidered our signatures. Whatever happened to that?

    I still have the French dictionary she gave me and another book on France. I got to Paris too, Frank, as did my brother Tom and my parents. It would’ve been great to see it through her eyes. Doesn’t it seem the perfect city for her?

    If you’re a pack rat, Nancy (as am I), we inherited it from her. I was surprised how much of our childhood artwork she kept. Stuff I had long forgotten about!

    What a lady, what a fun spirit, and how much we all miss her. Here’s to you Grandma! Cheers!

  8. Nancy’s memory must be another thing she inherited. Nancy remembers everything. She remembers what each of us had eaten on some of our trips.

    I on the otherhand have to keep writing things down to be sure not to forget (and also to organize what to do next).

  9. At the ripe old age of 21, I went to Paris and there visited my expatriated sister-in-law. Upon my return gave Grandma a full report on Montmartre, Pigalle (just passing through to catch the bus), the Louvre, and the Champs-Elysee. Not being a coffee drinker, I didn’t sip cafe-au-lait.

    Cathy, if Nancy doesn’t have the embroidery, then Linda might. There was also a Family Tree tablecloth that Grandma was making; and again either Nancy or Linda has that. Could it be that they are one in the same?

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