We’re being stalked by my husband's grandmother. She may be gone these thirty years, but she still reappears with each generation.
Melissa was a formidable woman, with strong opinions and a personality that would dominate whatever room she entered. She was taller than her husband Lloyd, although that was actually no achievement since according to family mythology he served in the Canadian Royal Horse Artillery during World War I because he was too short for the U.S. Army.
She earned a two year secretarial degree and then produced four children, among them a set of twin boys, worked as a secretary at a time when few women did that sort of thing, and was a ferocious gardener, canner, and rug maker.
After she and her husband retired they took to the road in their 1982 Buick, traveling across the country and into Canada and returning with Hudson Bay blankets, miniature rocking chairs for the grandchildren, and an endless assortment of souvenir spoons.
When I met her in her 70s she was still looking around her world to see what it might hold and she became a Jehovah's Witness. Now we didn't have to wait for a stranger to bring us the latest Watchtower; Grandmother Damon brought one whenever she came for a visit, along with brightly colored biblical comic books for our children.
We soon learned that Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas, but while she wouldn't acknowledge the event, woe to the person who tried to exclude her. When we would invite the family over for the holiday meal, I'd have to phone her under the fiction that this was just an everyday call and ask if she'd like to come over for dinner on the 25th.
I remember looking up from wrestling with the turkey on Thanksgiving to see her running her finger across the wide molding at the top of my kitchen doorway, presumably checking my housekeeping. She followed this up with an acid observation that I certainly looked like I knew what I was doing as I applied a corkscrew to the bottle of wine, a rare treat that would be served at dinner. Jehovah's Witnesses also do not consume alcohol.
Melissa may be gone, but with each generation a blonde with a mind of his or her own appears. Her twin sons, Robert and Richard, were forces to be reckoned with through their whole lives, from the time they jumped out of their classroom window at Van Sickle Junior High until 70 years later when one made a raid on the nursing home to successfully sneak the other one out of the joint.
Neither my husband or his sister were blonde, but our fair-haired daughter (aptly named after her great-grandmother) spent much of her childhood determinedly organizing the pack of playmates in our neighborhood and now efficiently rides herd on her own three boys.
As a child, my nephew was as single-minded as his great-grandmother; we have a limited number of early pictures of him since as a little boy he often refused to pose in any family photos. Just as he did when he was younger, he still watches out for his older brother, and runs both his job and home with precision.
Our grandson Gabriel is the latest blonde, although his hair is darkening as he gets older. Still, his interests are as far-ranging as his great-great-grandmother's were, excelling on both the soccer field and the piano bench. And at 11, he's now the one keeping his family organized. He reminds my daughter of all appointment times and dates, he's already figured out a reward system for his 6 year-old brother, and when they visit he's the only one in their family of five who remembers the code for our house door.
Melissa would be proud.