ELSA AND ME is inspired by my grandmother Elsa, not only for her elegant and classic style, but also for what she and other women of her generation stood for: frugality, dignity, and duty.
Elsa was my third parent and she taught me how to read my first words. When I was a little girl, she would look after me most weekdays, while my parents were at work. Once a week she would take me with her to visit her husband’s aunt (and my great great aunt) Ida, who my grandmother helped care for. Ida was kindhearted and funny, and Elsa really enjoyed chatting and joking with her. As a kid, I always looked forward to being around these two women who came of age long before my parents were born.
Elsa grew up in a time when having a career wasn’t always an option for women and she had to settle with being a homemaker, which, while she enjoyed it, was something I knew she didn’t want to do solely. She often still talks about when she was working at the post office temporarily and because they were so pleased with her work, was offered more of a full time position in the city together with company training. But my grandfather thought it was better for her to take care of their home and help his parents out, so she declined the offer. She took a lot of pride in both housework, raising the kids, and keeping the family budget. That my grandmother and her generation of women didn’t have the same opportunities that have been more readily available to me, have inspired me to be proactive in my own career and eventually become an entrepreneur.
Elsa grew up poor. Her father had even been raised in an orphanage. I suspect that background is why she developed an impeccable way of reusing everything that could possibly be reused. Plastic bags, elastic bands, wrapping paper, you name it; everything neatly organized in different cabinets. And while her extreme frugality has become a little bit of a joke in the family, it’s possibly what I admire the most about her --- and a trait that has spurred me to wanting to be both financially independent and wary of this planet’s limited resources.
Elsa is now 85 years old and not as strong as she once was, and although a recent stroke took away part of her face’s ability to express emotions, she still jokes with a dry sense of humor and never complains. I have always seen a lot of resilience in my grandmother and it is something that I hope to carry forward myself and not let tough times or struggles get the best of me.
ELSA AND ME is not only part of telling my grandmother’s story, but stories about other older women like her that are in all our families and inspire us. I’ve heard so many stories about women like Elsa from friends, acquaintances, clients, and more. So I want to devote part of this blog to those stories about women, for women, by women, and telling herstory.
Every now and then, we’ll introduce you to a woman that we admire and who inspires us and ask her to describe an older woman from her family who she admired and inspired her (along with a couple other questions). You can see our first profile in the series, Malene Barnett, now.
I hope you’ll enjoy these stories of older women as much as I have.- Maja Svensson