Sophia and her mom live in Seattle, but every year they come visit with grandma for a few weeks because she lives here in Milwaukee. Julie, Sophia’s mom says that today she found out that her mother was elected high school secretary. Her mother, Eunice confesses, “I’m 90 years old and this is the first time I’ve mentioned it. I also had the lead in the school play. In fourth year English, I had to recite a poem in an Irish brogue accent in front of the whole school during the assembly.” The majority of the population in Gays Mills Wisconsin where Eunice lived were Irish. “Oh it was fun. I was so introverted I couldn’t offend anyone. I’m glad I’ve saved it till now— it won’t affect any of your lives now.” Sophia squeals with delight, “Heee, oh Grandma!” “We learned a lot today,” says Julie.
Julie grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee. “I got my haircut here in high school because Rosemary Ross, the TV personality would get her hair cut here. Twice a year. Once, I got a permanent wave here too.” Back when it was the peak of fashion, grandma Eunice would go get a permanent wave once a year, “About the time it started looking good, that’s when you had to get another one.”
Everyone is quiet for a moment and then Eunice complements my hat, lamenting, “I just wish hats would come back again. It was always the fun part of your outfit, when you were going to buy the hat.” Sophia adds,“You had a dressmaker too for a while. I think that’s the most awesome thing!” Julie looks at her mother and daughter in a moment of discovery and asks, “Why aren’t we wearing hats? We should be!” Sophia agrees so fervently that she erupts into a fit of giggles, “Yeah, hehehehe!”
Then there is silence for a while again, it is broken when Eunice points to the painting above the piano and sighs, “Isn’t that frame pretty?”
Julie and Sophia are at the end of their 2014 Wisconsin vacation. This time they went to Irish Fest, Wolf Peach— a new restaurant, and to Chicago a couple of times. “We’ve been visiting family mostly. We saw the Magritte show at the Art Institute of Chicago… it’s kind of dark.” I ask Julie if she means dark as in the subject matter of the art and Julie replies, “Well, it is, but I mean literally, the lighting was really low and everyone was very quiet. Subdued, and a lot of the pictures are spooky or kind of gruesome. It was a real experience to walk through. No one was talking.” Sophia agrees, “Yeahhhhh.” Summing it up Julie says, “It was kind of disturbing, we looked at the little doll houses after that to even it out.”
Swelling with Grandmotherly pride, Eunice tells me, “Sophia is celebrating, she just finished her Summer Intensive Ballet. Nine to five, six days a week in Seattle at the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company.” Sophia, who has been doing ballet for five years, speaks up, “It was really fun, I felt like I learned a lot.” Eunice, still glowing with her granddaughter’s accomplishment tells me, “She was told she has good stage presence.” Sophia, smiling, meekly tries to cut her off by shouting “Grandma!” But Eunice continues: “Compared to the rest of her class.”