There are so many things that I want to tell you about my Grandma Mae. She was an artist, ceramicist and jewelry maker. She had a great sense of humor and loved children and chocolate. She was a 4'8". She founded a preschool and, after resigning herself to a life of spinsterhood, met and married the love of her life. She always carried balloons and a roll of pennies when she traveled abroad, so that she would have something to hand out to children. They seemed to know what was coming, and would flock to her wherever she went.
When my grandfather died, three years after suffering a massive stroke, she was exhausted from being his full-time caregiver. She promptly signed up for a university year-at-sea course and visited dozens of countries in a whirlwind round-the-world tour.
Upon her return, she told us, "I have decided to spend my money on you while I am still alive. I want to leave you an inheritance of memories."
When each of us turned 10 years old, she took us on an international adventure. She used her modest savings and chose trips that related to the interests of her four grandchildren in art, history, animals, and crafts. My first trip with her was a folk-art weaving tour of Guatemala, and my second, when I was 17, was an art tour of the minority peoples of China. My brothers went on trips that included Japan, Israel, China, Peru and the Galapagos Islands.
The effect these trips had on us was remarkable. I was the only ten-year-old I knew who was saving her babysitting money for her next airplane ticket. Bitten by the travel bug, there is almost nowhere in the world that one of my brothers or I have not gone. (Have any of you guys been to Antarctica?)
Memories of traveling with my grandmother are more valuable than any other inheritance I can imagine, and I hope someday to be able to pass these jewels along to my own grandchildren.