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Today Grandma Hilda turns 125. At least she would be, if she hadn’t passed away in 1978—a year before having a chance to meet my firstborn.

Grandma may have left this world almost 39 years ago, but I think of her every day. In my bedroom sits her old-fashioned dressing table. I remember sitting at it as a little girl, poking through its messy drawers, filled with random personal items like bobby pins, hair nets, and pop beads. Grandma didn’t wear pearls; she wore pop beads. Today women of my generation don’t use hair nets—at least not that I’m aware of, and the last time I saw a pair of pop beads was over a decade ago.

The set of apple Franciscan ware I have didn’t belong to her, yet it’s like her set—and a few of the pieces I got after my aunt passed away may have once belonged to Grandma. But it doesn’t matter. I think of Grandma whenever I use it. Even my painted kitchen cabinets—not quite white with a hint of soft yellow, were inspired by Grandma’s kitchen.

91A couple years before Grandma passed away she went into decline and my uncle put her in a nursing home. When my mother came into town we went to visit Grandma, and we were horrified at the home. They had Grandma drugged up and the place smelled. We made the split decision to kidnap her.  I can still remember the staff saying—“You can’t do that!”—we hadn’t been the ones to check her in.  We said, “Watch us,” and took her out of there.

We took Grandma to my aunt’s house. I was newly married and had recently graduated from college and didn’t yet have a job. So, each day, I drove from Covina, California to my aunt’s house in El Monte, to help take care of grandma. She got better and moved back home with my grandpa Pete.

When Grandma passed away a couple years later, she was ready to go. She told my mother, “I hope they won’t be mad at me.” Mom didn’t realize what Grandma meant until after she slipped off in her sleep.

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In my Haunting Danielle series death is never the end. And who knows—perhaps it is the same way in the real world. I like to think Grandma is surrounded by all those who she loved—and have since departed.

A few years back I discovered altered books—where an artist transforms a hardback book into a work of art. As an author, I supposed I should be outraged at the thought of violating a book in such a way—making it unreadable—not as the original author intended. But the truth is—I found altered books utterly enchanting, especially how they stimulate the tactile senses.

For my Mother’s birthday one year, I created an altered book, wholly inspired by Grandma Hilda. As you will see by the posted pictures, it even has a little drawer filled with pop beads. What you can’t smell, is the package of gardenia fragrance wax chips—which when one opens the book, still gives off the scent of Grandma Hilda’s favorite flower.

Happy Birthday Grandma Hilda

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