On March 5, 1928, my Grandmere gave birth to her first child. She named her Janice Helene. As the story goes, my Grandmere’s favorite novel at the time, Janice Meredith, inspired the baby’s name.
To continue the literary inspiration into the next generation, my mother named me Meredith. I have a sneaking suspicion that my mother never read Janice Meredith. It’s a novel about the Revolutionary War, George Washington (we lived on Washington Street), and lots of shooting back and forth between us and the Red Coats. Rockets red glare, snowy battlefields, and bloody uniforms. Not really my mother’s reading interests.
My mother loved sunbathing and icy Lime Rickeys on our chaise lounge as she read her Book-of-the-Month Club selections, novels by Graham Greene, Katherine Anne Porter, or Mary Renault.
She loved to play “Don’t Mess with Bill” and “Finlandia” on her granny Nellie’s piano, a 1905 Steinway, set in the northwest corner of our music room. As a child, my mother had a big collection of porcelain-faced dolls. I have a picture of her when she was about six or seven with her dolls all around her.
So Happy Birthday, mom. My daughter reminds me you would not have enjoyed turning 90; you left this planet for the heavenly realms shortly after your 70th birthday.
Twenty years later, we’re all still sad about that. But in a poetry workshop a few years back I wrote a poem about your favorite way to be in the world (for all of us still here):
“Always be mysterious,” you instructed. I think I have tried to be mysterious . . . as well as I can do within my limitations of not being you. The world misses you, mom. But this evening we will all raise a glass of champagne in your honor. Love love love . . . m
I guess I’m glad the novel’s title was only two words long; otherwise, my own children’s names may have been characters in the novel too. Or I might have stayed with the literary theme and named my son Huck Finn. My daughter? Well, that’s a mystery.