Monday, June 01, 2009


My Grandma Sylvia passed away Saturday night. It was not unexpected, but it's still sort of shocking. She was my last living grandparent, outlasting my Grandma Bess by over ten years. I never knew either of my grandfathers. I was never extremely close to my Grandma Sylvia, and yet we had so many weird things in common. Not exactly in common. No. More like, we had some weird connection. My grandma was a smart woman. Wickedly sharp and funny. I feel like I can parallel so many things that she did in her life with things I found interest in at one time or another. She published her own newspaper; I published a zine (and subsequently met my husband that way). She built her own dollhouses; I have always been afraid, yet drawn to dolls. She sold wigs at a place called The Wigwam; and for a while I was a collector and wearer of wigs, too. And Riverview. For those who don't know, Riverview was an amusement park in Chicago, one that closed down before I was even born. Our local PBS channel filmed a special about it. My parents reminisce about it. And my Grandma Sylvia worked there as a ballyhoo girl, calling patrons in to rides and games. "Three balls for a nickel!" Stuff like that. I have always held a wonder and fascination with carnivals. The weirdest carnival memory I have was when I went on a camp field trip with the one summer camp I hated. I had no friends there, and for some reason we went to a carnival. Small town. Seedy. Walking by myself, I came upon a tent. "Snakewoman," it said. Freaked the CRAP out of me. I was terrified, and yet, I wanted to see her. I chickened out, of course, but I'll always have that combination of wonder and terror about carnivals. When I lived in Australia, I nearly interviewed for a job at Luna Park, until I met the sleazo who would be hiring me. I guess I wasn't a true carnie. But my grandma was. It even says so in her obituary. I come from carnie blood, and I'm quite proud of it. It kind of makes sense.

You, and all of your bizarre, hilarious, dollhoused, wig-covered ways will be missed, Grandma Sylvia. I hope you and Grandma Bess, Grandpa Joe and Grandpa Jack are having fun on all of the rides together, painting the town bright red.


A Fan said...

I wanted to express my condolences on your loss.
What a great character your grandmother must have been.

Leonard said...

Julie, that was a magnificent tribute. You captured Sylvia's spirit better than anyone else could. Grandma Sylvia is bursting with pride that you and Matt are famous as artists, her first love, and the entire family is so proud of you both.