,My paternal Grandmother's name was Jenny Knutson. A first generation Norwegian woman who we all knew best as "Grandma-In-The-Bird" due to the folk art wooden parrot that she had hanging in her tiny little studio apartment, since the dawn of time. You know how those childish terms of endearment just have a way of sticking with you somehow.
She had a very challenging life, and in many ways, a very sad one. A family that kept her outside because she fell in love with an Irishman straight off the boat (my Grandfather Henry Jackson), who in the end, dealt her the ultimate betrayal. He left her with the seven children he helped create.
I never met the man. I doubt I missed much.
She worked her whole life, doing all she could, without family support to carry the needs of her children.
Her own mother and sisters were not close to her. Not loving. She was cast out when she first spoke of loving Henry and the first child they were expecting. They later forced her to marry a man I only know by his last name, Vilvang. Another Norwegian from the same village along the Fraser River that many Norwegians came to settle over 100 years ago, a little place called the Annieville Slew. I suppose this cruel act was meant to restore her sullied reputation. I think of how much heartache she must have had at that time as her life was just about to begin.
Her bumpy road had her leaving Mr. Vilvang and in the end marrying her Henry which I'm sure to her must have seemed like a massive victory at the time, despite being cut out of her family being the price. I assume she loved him madly but I don't really know. She never spoke of him or those years.
She gave him children, she gave him herself and years of her life. In the end, he left her with just those children, and all of the responsibilities that came with raising them alone. She was an outcast from her own family, a penniless single mother at a time when it was social suicide to be one.
His signature doesn't appear in the autograph book I inherited from Jenny. Everyone's poems, illustrations and notes of love do. Not Henry's.
If you were to look at my Grandmother, you'd see a small woman with a stunning smile. You wouldn't think she would be so strong inside her, living on such a slight frame. She took any job she could get, working most of her entire life at The Royal City Café right on the strip in what was then, hip and happening New Westminster. The Patullo Bridge was built in 1936, making the area easy to migrate to for thrill seekers looking to bust the mold. She must have looked across the Fraser to Annieville Slew with disappointment in those years. A ton of desertion must have been her view, across the raging waters of the river. I can't think she looked often, if ever, at all.
Ever resourceful, in the summers, she took a job out in White Rock as the main cook at a boy's camp where my father and his brothers would be able to attend, for free as a perk of her job there. Smart woman! Way to turn lemons into lemon-aid Grandma, or was it just survival? Most likely, a bit of both.
She would save fast-food french fries for "later", often seen stuffing them into her purse which I always thought sad and a little bit strange when I saw her do it. A sure sign the depression left it's distinct footprint on her. She could pick the bones of a chicken clean in seconds and while not the best cook in the world, her heart was in everything she did for me whenever we were together.
It's a strange phenomenon that my own life has mirrored hers in many ways. My mother walked out of our lives years ago, leaving me on the outside of my only family I have left. In my life now, I stand beside my steadfast Captain and husband, but before him, I was loved and left with my son in tow... a very bumpy and challenging road of my own through those years. I spent a decade as a single mother, working my buns off to build what I have today.
I'm so glad time doesn't give us the option of ticking backwards.
I lost her in 1995, just before my first daughter was born. She never saw the great grandchild she had on the way, but I was the first to give her the distinction. I found an article the other day about my father at the summer camp. Despite his father walking out on their family and a ton of poverty that they swam in every single day, his face in this coverage in the paper shows him just brimming with boyhood carefree splendour. That's him on the far left, my Dad, Capt. Barry D. Jackson.
Great job Jenny!
HI, I'M KATE
A Captain's daughter, who became a Captain's wife. I remain always, a mermaid out of water looking to get straight back to the sea, whenever possible.