The other day I caught myself sitting in my armchair, legs crossed, arms resting on either side of the chair. I was lost in thought, contemplating meal plans, school activities, writing and books. I was in a world of my own. So, when I “came round” and caught myself sitting there with a silly smile on my face, my immediate response was to laugh (who wouldn’t?). If someone had seen me, what would they have thought, seeing me staring off into space, smiling away to myself ? And in that moment, that very thought sparked a memory for me. My granny, sitting in that exact same position, with the same smile on her face (except, to me, her smile was more serene than “silly”).
I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder what Gran thinks about when she stares off into space?” I remember her doing it quite a lot. In her chair, standing at her kitchen counter, peeling potatoes or chopping veg, strolling through her garden, hands held loosely behind her back. She often seemed to me like a bit of a dreamer and sometimes I even wondered if she was sad. Her smile seemed to refute that. Because, she was always smiling. And, honestly, she always seemed serene.
I know that no one is perfect. We all have faults and short-comings and we all make mistakes. Our characters are all ever-evolving and being shaped as we grow and experience life and change due to circumstances or decisions. There is no doubt in my mind that Granny D wasn’t perfect and that she was human, just like me. But, she was a really great granny. From what I can tell, she was a really great mom and a pretty amazing human too.
I look back on my childhood and it is FULL of special moments with both of my grans. I was really fortunate to have had two incredible women for grans and the day my mom’s mom passed away goes down in history (well, in my history) as one of the saddest days of my then, eight-year-old life. Courtney was named after her. I wish I had a lifetime of memories with her. I do, however, have a lifetime of memories with Granny D.
My gran was one of those grans who didn’t really believe in spoiling us with sweets and treats.
Instead, she devoted her time to us whenever we were with her. She would spend hours teaching us how to press flowers or make paper dolls. She would bake with us and always let us make concoctions of various pantry items to pretend cook on the cardboard-box-stove my grandfather made for us. She would play General Knowledge with us, sitting around her dining room table with glasses of fruit juice and slices of buttered ginger bread.
She had a whole cupboard of toys she had saved from when my dad and my aunts were little and she would often add little items of her own to this stash. A scarf, an old handbag, clip-on earrings or a tube of lipstick. There were baby dolls and Barbies and Tinker-Toys. There was a tin of coins from around the world and paper money she made from the green blotter paper on my grandad’s desk. An old telephone and notebooks made their way into this glorious treasure trove, as well as various coloured pencils, crayons and paper and cardboard galore.
The study walls were lined with bookshelves and filled with books and photo albums. My cousin, my sister and I would spend hours pouring over old photographs or lying on the bed or an old blanket on the grass reading “Adventure Stories for Girls”. The study was once my dad’s bedroom and my gran had never removed the stickers and pencil scribblings of her only son from the inside of the cupboard. I think, in a way, she held on to her children by keeping pieces from their childhood and in so doing, she gave us the gift of looking back in time.
I realize now that she was passing down not only toys and books or pictures, but that she was also passing down a heritage for us.
A love for learning and literature, art and music appreciation (the radio was always on). She stoked our inquisitive minds with questions and took us to explore nature in her beautiful garden. She sparked our own creativity with water colour lessons and let our imaginations run wild in the fairy gardens she conjured up and the houses she helped us to build in the trees and shrubs right at the back of the garden.
In her later years, our conversations often centered around motherhood .My gran told me she loved being a mom. She told me how she would watch her children playing from behind a curtain, or around a corner and how she would take them into the garden to lie on their tummies to watch a locust laying eggs. She laughed at the various mischievous misdemeanors of her son and spoke with fondness of her girls. She told me to not take life too seriously and to not allow silly things to make me angry. She told me she wished she had had more time with her children and to enjoy the time I have with my own.
I remember being in a supermarket with her one day. She was well into her seventies and I was in my late twenties. We had ambled through the shop, following my grandad who was on a mission that day. If my memory serves me correctly, he wanted to get the shopping done so that we could go grab a milkshake at the Wimpy next door. We got to the checkout and as Grandad was paying, my gran whispered to me, “Don’t you just wish you could jump up and swing on the bar above the counter ?” This of course had us in fits of giggles. Grandad whipped around and scolded her, saying “Darl, don’t corrupt our granddaughter”. Well, this just had her giggling even more. As we were leaving she said to me, “Make sure you have fun in life. Its not good to be too serious.”
Granny D was an artist, an intellect (my dad used to say she would be his “call a friend” if he ever were to enter “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” ), an avid gardener, a good cook (taught by my grandad). She was fun and funny and had a naughty streak that she kept well hidden and only let out for certain people to see. She LOVED her husband and adored her children. She doted on her grandchildren. She lived her life well, she was quiet and calm and rarely lost her temper or her smile. She was an introvert, a homemaker. She had a natural flair for style. She had a deep faith. She walked with grace and dignity and had a fantastic sense of humour. She saw the beauty in all things, I know this because she pointed it out. She loved family and family gatherings. She loved animals, especially her dogs and even spoke in a different voice to them. She was a storyteller, a true creative. She ended her sentences with a hum.
I don’t look anything like my gran, but sometimes, I see something of her in my reflection.
I can hear her telling me to have fun and to be a bit naughty and to enjoy my life. I hope I am doing her proud.
My gran passed away last year. She spent her last day with my aunt and they sat chatting well into the night. They sang worship songs and hymns. Granny D took her last breaths while reciting “The Lord is My Shepherd.” She may not be with us, but her legacy has been imprinted on our lives.