Friday, October 21, 2005
Elsie Helen Eschebeck Webster (May 30, 1913 – October 17, 2005)
Grandma was one of three women to graduate from the University of Oregon in the mid-1930’s. She studied music and liberal arts. She taught grade school in one of those one-room classrooms. She married my grandpa less then three months after meeting him at the age of 26.
Grandma sang opera and played the piano. She’d travel to distant places and bring back trinkets and memorabilia. It was always fun to go over to Grandma’s after she returned from Greece or Germany, and see her suitcase full of swatches or chocolates or dolls or crystal figurines. Grandma spent the evening of her 80th birthday looking at the moon as she walked along a stretch of Mediterranean beach. Grandma was amazing.
She’d take us to bookstores, and buy us children’s books signed by some of the greats, Leo Politi, and others. Grandma had this huge record collection of all the famous classical composers. Music was ALWAYS playing on the stereo at Grandma’s house. If not from the stereo, from her baby grand in the living room. She was constantly plagued with young untalented piano students (such as myself), and she never asked the parents for a dime. She’d expect you to rake all her leaves and pull weeds and stuff, but she never wanted your money. Grandma taught elementary school, chorus, ESL to Hmong and Laotian adults, Primary…she loved to teach. And she was good at it. In fact, my mother had Mrs. Webster in fourth grade. I even read a progress report she gave my 9 year-old mother where she praised her for being obedient and a good student.
Grandma had music/script books of stories like Hansel and Gretel. She’d play the piano and teach us the songs, and then we’d act them out. Grandma played games like Sardines (a variation of hide-and-go-seek). I remember the games were always more fun when Grandma would play with us.
She’d get us the sugar cereals we could never eat at home. “Dates” were common with Grandma. Lunch and a trip to Mervyn’s. Grandma got me my first pair of Guess jeans. For that alone, Grandma is the highest-ranking benefactress of my life.
As I got older, she and I did have some good talks. She was extraordinarily supportive in my dramatic endeavors and especially my singing. Whenever we came over, she wanted us to play and sing. She encouraged us to never give up on dreams, they way she felt she had with hers. I don’t think she was always happy with how her life turned out, I think she always wanted to become more than what she did. But the very, very best thing she ever did was give birth to the most wonderful father on the planet, my Dad, whom I love more than I can ever explain.
These are just a few of the marvelous things she was (and is). And these are the things I want to remember over anything else. As hard has it may have been sometimes, I know that I will always love my Grandma. And I thank God for her.
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