What Gigi Gave Me

by Alexa Van Dalsem June 08, 2011

My daily life is full of activities around the written word. In my professional work, I spend most of my time writing grant applications. In my mommy work, I spend ample time helping my children spell, make out words, reading (books, signs, movie credits), and taking trips to the library.

I end most of my days with reading. In between, there are sprinklings of working with my husband on editing his book and browsing blogs, websites, and magazines. My husband remarked last night, “I feel like I live in a library,” because of the amount of reading material in the living room (not hoarder level, but significant stacks of books and magazines).

Over the last few weeks, I was given occasion to consider where my love of the written word originated from. No doubt, my parents, one of whom was a technical writer for much of his professional life, and the other who loved to read, had much to do with fostering this love.

But the other person who had a tremendous influence was my grandmother, Helen R. Harper, aka “Gigi.” On May 21 of this year, at the age of 92, she passed away. As we mourn her loss, we are also rejoicing that she is now home, whole, and reunited with her husband, childhood love, and my grandfather. My grandmother returned to school when her oldest child entered college. She completed a PhD in library science and became a school librarian.

I envision her, elegant and poised always, sitting on the floor with groups of children reading the classics. One of the best gifts she gave me and my sisters was membership in a book-of-the-month club. I remember the excitement of opening the new package and browsing the selection of books. Some of these books are now on my children’s shelves.

My grandmother introduced me to one of my favorite series of all time, The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. I still reread these favorites as an adult. By her chair in the den, my grandmother always had a interesting array of books, biographies, histories, current and classic fiction, and recommendations for me.

I will remember my grandmother for many things (her hospitality to friends and family, attempting to teach me golf, feeding my desire to learn traditional place settings, her sewing and knitting skills, the smell of her towels and bathroom soap, her tenacity and poise, her wit and quick mind, her faith, her bravery as part of the Women Army Corps as a mom while her husband was fighting in World War II), but it is probably her love of books and the written word that is most strong in my memory and life. In the days since her passing, sharing the written word and books my grandmother introduced to me with my children has been poignant. “This book,” I tell them, “Gigi once gave to me. And now I get to share it with you.”




Alexa Van Dalsem
Alexa Van Dalsem

Author

Alexa Van Dalsem, a grant writer by trade, writes short stories, poetry, a personal blog and, most recently, short movie scripts. In her free time, Alexa enjoys playing with her family and spending time in the great outdoors of her home state, Colorado. Alexa's short story "Black Leather Shoes" was featured in Ruminate's Issue 01: Chewing on Life



4 Responses

Alexa Van Dalsem
Alexa Van Dalsem

February 17, 2017

Thanks, Garrett. What a blessing grandma’s are. I always like to hear about other fans of the Dark is Rising series. Thanks for reading!

Garrett Ellis
Garrett Ellis

February 17, 2017

Alexa,
Very touching picture of your Gigi. The post made me reflect on my own grandma. And I reread The Dark is Rising Series often myself!

Good writing. All the best,
Garrett

Alexa Van Dalsem
Alexa Van Dalsem

February 17, 2017

Thanks, Jeff. The blog gave me a place to reflect some on my grandmother’s life and to rejoice in her life. Thanks for reading!

Jeff Turner
Jeff Turner

February 17, 2017

this was a nice read. thank you for sharing part of your life and family.

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