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2012 Nikki Gastineau Johnson - Bloomington, Indiana
Words of Women

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2012 Nikki Gastineau Johnson - Bloomington, Indiana

Words of Women 2012 Essay of the Year

Nikkki Gastineau Johnson

Bloomington, Indiana


As the oldest of seven girls, I learned responsibility for others at a very early age. By the time I was 12-years-old, I took care of my sisters while my mother worked as a waitress and bartender at night. Sometimes Dad was home, but most likely not. If he was home, he was asleep in front of the television and the responsibility for meals, bathing, and housecleaning still fell to me. I felt like I was invisible. There was no one-on-one time with my mother unless I could get a few words in the bathroom with her as she was getting ready to go to work. I was starved for love, recognition and attention.

That love came from my paternal grandmother, Pearl Denny Gastineau. I cherish the times I was able to spend with her; mostly school vacations and a 6 month period when I was 9 that I was sent to live with her and Grandpa. Her gifts to me were time and love. She took me away from the crowd and allowed me to be an individual with an identity. We played board games, we read books aloud, and we gave each other spelling quizzes. She loved all games. Grandma only had a 6th grade education and she always thought it funny when I told her how smart she was. When I was at her house I always got to sleep with her and that meant getting to talk as long as I wanted or until I fell asleep. We could talk about anything I wanted and she would answer all my questions. I was important to someone. Someone listened to me.

Grandma died in 1989, but she is still here, in me. Grandma never worked a day in her life at a job that paid a salary, yet she was one of the hardest working people I knew. Most importantly, she worked hard at living life to the fullest. She saw the glass half-full. She loved to talk, to visit with friends, to plant flowers, read good books, bird-watching, a good cup of tea, a cool breeze on a hot day, dessert, seeing new places, buying something because you wanted it, not just because you needed it, and to be comfortable with a house that wasn’t spotless. So what if the furniture had a layer of dust? Let’s play Sorry, her favorite board game, or Hangman, her favorite paper and pencil game. Occasionally, she would get the urge to clean and we would spend the day scrubbing, polishing, and vacuuming. Afterwards, looking around at the results, Grandma would smile with a twinkle in her eyes and say “Now, if we can just keep it that way”, knowing full well that it was nice, but it wasn’t more important than doing something we enjoyed. Afterwards, we would fix a snack and a cup of tea and feel a sense of accomplishment and then onto having a good time. Grandma gave me my individuality and my confidence.