My maternal grandmother was named Joyce Wickstrom. In retrospect, she was the family member with whom I most identify.
There is this picture of her that I discovered once in a shoebox: she’s wearing a snug-fitting leopard print cocktail dress, sunglasses and smoking a cigarette. Her hair is meticulously styled, and she isn’t exactly smiling at the camera, instead, it’s a look that says: “Oh, you again?” Oh so Mad Men-esque.
This wasn’t the woman I met growing up. Grandma Joyce, in my memory, was the quintessential “cool” grandma. Every time I visited her house, she would have watched children’s programming and gone to the store to get me the most popular snacks for kids (gushers, fruit roll-ups, sugary cereal). Sometimes we would bake fantastic cakes (like a shredded coconut Easter bunny cake with black licorice whiskers.)
And every evening, at her house in Milwaukee, we would snuggle in her bed and watch Nick at Nite. Classic comedies like Get Smart, I Dream of Jeanie, Bewitched and I Love Lucy. Looking back, that may very well be where my love of comedy first started.
Joyce passed away when I was seven or eight. She was the last of my four grandparents to pass. I was too young to really understand that she was gone. I was more worried about what would happen to her two cats. Consequently, all my memories of her are warm and pleasant ones.
Every morning, she would sit at the marble vanity in her bathroom, spraying her hair with Aqua Net until it was coiffed to perfection. I imagine her in heaven, clad in leopard print, sauntering up to St. Peter at the pearly gates, raising one make-uped eyebrow and walking on in to join the party.