Hey there friends of Life’s a Mango. This week in my role as a primary school teacher, I was reminded once again of the saying which goes something like, We don’t hear what you say because who you are speaks louder. This week, the students I support were required to do an independent writing task of their own choice. Some chose to write about their favourite PlayStation game, some chose to tell me what they would do if they won a lot of money but at least three students chose to write about their kind grandmother.
The reason these students chose to write about their grandmother is because they love her dearly and she loves them. As they each wrote giving examples of their grandmother’s kindness and generosity, I was taken back some forty-fifty years to these same attributes which my Nana had. When I stop and reflect on her personality and the impact she had on me, I’m reminded that I’ve hopefully picked up some of my mannerisms from her.
My grandmother always had a pleasant look on her face, even when she was relaxed. Her eyes were warm and happy and her mouth rested in a soft, gentle smile. Nana couldn’t drive so when she took my brother and I on outings, it was always by foot, on the bus or by train. I remember so well the friendly way that she spoke to the driver as we climbed up the stairs and the way she greeted other passengers as she boarded the bus. There was an opening of the heart about her that I hope she passed on to me.
Every time my brother, Stu, and I visited my grandmother’s house, or she came to ours, Nana would bring us a little gift; a small gesture. It wasn’t anything flashy or expensive, but it was her way of showing us we were loved. I remember with glee the feeling I had when my Nana and Papa arrived at our place each Christmas Day. As they got out of the car in our driveway, they would walk around to their boot and pull out at least one big suitcase. Seeing a suitcase being carried by someone when they weren’t going on a holiday always made me giggle inside and I still get a thrill thinking about it even now – just imagining what sort of wonderful gifts were hidden inside.
It was a tradition for me and other family members to go and help my grandmother make the Christmas pudding a few weeks before December 25th. Nana put a lot of effort into making the pudding. It required a massive amount of breadcrumbs and this was back in the day before food processors or blenders existed. All the breadcrumbs from about four loaves of bread had to be done manually with a grater. I remember the huge, antique patterned bowl that we would make the pudding in as well as the smell of dried fruit that had been soaked in some kind of alcoholic beverage – probably brandy. Nana always made more than one pudding – one for Christmas day, one for the family and another for friends. Together we would stir the ingredients, which took a lot of elbow grease I can tell you, flour the muslin cloths and then pop the pudding mixture in the centre. Nana would securely tie the pudding at the top with string and then we’d take the puddings home to our place because we had a large water boiler in our laundry. The puddings had to be placed in this bubbling boiler for hours and hours and the heavenly, sweet, spiced smell of the puddings boiling away is still one of my favourite olfactory childhood memories. When my grandmother died, this tradition died with her so I think another legacy she left me was valuing rituals. Although things may have been a bother, to her it was worth it.
Another wonderful memory I have of my grandmother is the way she allowed me to test out my cooking skills in her kitchen. If you’ve ever cooked with a child, you would know that it requires a LOT of patience. The urge to grab the cup or spoon or mop up the mess is extremely forceful and yet, she allowed me to be messy and somehow find my way. This made me love her even more. I adored cooking and I remember Nan helping me make my first jelly, gingerbread, honeycomb, biscuits, cupcakes, jam and other goodies. Her kitchen may have been small but her heart was huge and with the radio always humming in the background, I was as happy as.
My grandmother and grandfather also taught me how to shuffle a pack of cards and how to play games like Fish and Rummy. As I got older and was a teenager, I remember my Nana meeting with a group of other women on a Saturday afternoon at her house to play the Chinese game, Mahjong, using those small, smooth tiles. As well as learning how to play this game, I also recall the plates of sweet, homemade delights each of the women would bring. Things like iced cupcakes, scones and piklets with jam and cream and sponges. Sometimes I couldn’t help wondering if it was more about afternoon tea than the Mahjong!
I’d like to dedicate this blog to my grandmother and to all the grandmothers who are helping to mould their grandchildren through their loving attitude and acts of kindness. Nan, you accepted me for who I was and I always felt relaxed and safe in your company. Walking home to your house after school was a joy and seeing your beaming, bright, sunny face greet me at the door always filled me with happiness and a sense that I was loved. Something I couldn’t have articulated then but I can now.
So, dear reader, spare a kind thought for those adults who loved and spoiled you when you were a child. What special memories do you hold in your heart? Although you may not be aware of it consciously, this warm, loving adult helped to make you who you are today and, no doubt, you are paying that loving kindness forward to your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews – or maybe to a stranger today who will be uplifted with the genuine smile on your face.