Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A tale of two grammies

I was fortunate to be surrounded by extended family for my early childhood. My parents relocated our family once I started school, but I have wonderful memories of spending many afternoons with both my grandmothers. 

This is my paternal grandmother. She turns 86 today.

She lived in Ottawa during the war and did secretarial work while waiting for my grandpa to come home. She was my grandfather's sweetheart when he served overseas. He kept her picture in his pocket the whole time and courted her with songs like "Let Me Call You Sweetheart". She was a stay-at-home mom while my dad was young. She travelled with my grandpa when they were older in his big transport truck. She kept him company on long trips hauling cymbals, doing her crafts while he drove. 

She spent the whole year preparing for the Christmas craft fair. She could make anything out of plastic mesh and some yarn--jewelry boxes, tissue covers, tote bags, you name it. She also did a lot of work with beads--beautiful snowflakes and ladies in ballroom gowns. My grandfather must have had the patience of a saint. One time he had to stop suddenly and beads ended up all over the cab of the truck. He helped her pick up each bead and put it away. Of course, she also made many afghans, two of which I have on the couch in my living room, and sewed lots of things. She taught me how to knit when I was four years old. I remember sitting with her picking out the stitches. She was always trying out different types of crafts and introducing them to me.

I don't see her often because we don't live close. However, I know she's always praying for me. And I love her, even when we don't agree on things. I always assumed that she was a simple housewife, but now I know who really wore the pants in the family. She remains a strong willed lady that loves her family ferociously. Maybe she intimidates me a bit. I forget that she was once a young mother like me.

My mother's mother was a war bride. She met and married my grandfather when he was stationed in Britain. He wooed her with chocolate and pantyhose. She travelled to Canada, leaving her family behind, to start a new life with her husband. And what a life she had. My grandfather was away quite a bit, so she basically raised 3 children on her own. She cleaned houses to make ends meet and was always able to make something out of nothing. Her bleach and detergent bottle roses were legendary. I wish I still had a few. She sewed clothes for herself and her family. Everything from underwear to wedding dresses. She was a substitute mother and grandmother to everyone in her small community. After experiencing the lean war years, she made sure that no one in her presence ever went hungry. A piece of pie was literally half the pie. My favourite memories of her were sewing doll clothes at her dining room table, making a fort on the couch when the power went out, and of the wonderful voices she made up for my dolls with her Canadianized British accent.

She died almost 10 years ago. And the whole community came out to send her off. She was a remarkable women and I see her in my Lizzie, even though they never had a chance to meet. I see bits of her in my mother as well, when she gets on her hands and knees and plays with Lizzie. Just like she did.

I'm so lucky that I had such strong influences early in life. I picked up many talents from both ladies, once that I realized I had much later in life.  

5 comments:

MJ said...

A very touching post. I had a close relationship with my paternal grandmother who reminds me of your paternal grandmother. My grandmother was always busy doing something and, like many in that age group, had a thing about the plastic mesh. I just couldn't keep the plastic mesh stuff but I have kept many of her other creations.

Firefly Hill said...

Both of your grandmothers are very beautiful! What a lovely post...

Happy Birthday to you!

Annie

Jillian said...

A great post and tribute to Grandmothers...very very special Grannies you had! Thanks for sharing...

Liz said...

What a sweet post! Your grandmothers were really beautiful women!

Rubyellen said...

they sound like remarkable women with remarkable lives... thank you for sharing!