In honor of Grammy's birthday, September 8, 1899, a repost from September 08, 2007:
Grammy, a magical word and a magical teller of tales of our childhood. She lived 93 years. Today is her birthday. She would have been 108 years old. Photos (above and below) scanned from one of the snail blogs -- magnetic albums of Kodak prints with Letraset headlines and text -- of our salad days.
Grammy -- our magnificently contrarian Finnish-American grandmother, Julia Kock Loddy, JuJu to her great grandchildren -- was a shining star in the family constellation of our childhood. Today, September 8, is her birthday. 1899 was the year. In our mind's eye she is forever young, a force of nature inspiring us to be all that we can be. A voracious reader and moviegoer who seemed to conflate T.E. Lawrence with Peter O'Toole -- she devoured The Seven Pillars of Wisdom even as she took us young girls to see "Lawrence of Arabia" early and often when it was still playing in Cinemascope at the Gary Theater in Boston.
Grammy's baby girl, our own precious Mummy. She outlived her mother by little more than a year, taken down by something we never would have dreamed of, Lou Gehrig's disease.
We were the apple of Grammy's eye -- Sissikins -- until we hit puberty, and then all bets were off. In our early teen years in Exeter, New Hampshire, her wit and wisdom outshone our own whenever gentleman callers from Phillips Exeter came a courting:
How can I speak of her virtues?
I don't know where to begin.
She's clever, she's smart, she reads music,
She doesn't smoke or drink gin.
(Like I do)
Bride of the hour Susan, Mummy and Sissy in the day. Girls just wanna. We don't care what anyone says. Being young and pretty is wicked fun.
September 8. Grammy's birthday. Julia Kock Loddy, the child of John and Aurora Kock, Finnish emigrants who settled on a farm in Lunenburg, Massachusetts -- near the Finnish "ghetto" of Fitchburg -- around the turn of the (20th) century. Shades of Bronson Alcott, with lots of leftist utopianism in the air. Julia was the golden girl, the adored but cloistered sister -- Alice James, sister to Henry and William comes to mind: "In our family group girls scarcely seem to have had a chance" -- amidst a family constellation of two high-achieving brothers. Also one other brother that died as a child and broke the mother's heart. Grammy, the greatest teller of tales we ever knew, told of her family's watching the dead brother's soul ascend to Heaven. She also recounted a horrifying tale of her father's shooting the family dog for getting pregnant one more time (the woman made me do it, Lord?). Here must lie the deepest roots of our life-long feminism.
Julia would have been 105 today had she lived, but she was more than ready to go at 92, stuck in an old-folks' home, when she left this vale of tears. Eyesight gone, she could no longer read the great works that had sustained her lively mind when she lived for many years in her own little room upstairs at our parents' home. She was the one who took us grandchildren to the widescreen theater in Boston umpteen times to see "Lawrence of Arabia." She had read The Seven Pillars of Wisdom and everything ever written by or about T.E. Lawrence. Oh, wouldn't we love to tap that recalcitrant all-about-oil mind today.
In our high school hussy days -- our sis and ourselves -- as townie gals in Exeter, New Hampshire, entertaining the Phillips Academy boys who lit up our lives, it was always Grammy -- later known via her first grandchild, Matthew's, epithet as JuJu -- who engaged the minds of those brilliant young future Masters of the Universe.
Julia had been a "child bride," arrange-married to a dashing Estonian officer of the Tsar's army -- the mysterious Hubby of our childhood -- as an eighteen-year-old. Mary, the precious child who later became our own dear mother, was born the next year. At some point in there, Grammy fled with infant Mary back home to her mother, who had long since returned to Finland. A year or two later Grammy returned stateside, and there's some faint memory of her having chosen, years later, to fund her daughter's college education vs. taking another trip back to Finland to see her mother one last time. Don't we wish we had paid more attention to her oft-repeated stories? So intense, so heartbreaking, so American.