It’s Saturday morning and Wren’s bag is packed and ready to go to Nana’s, as it has been for days.
A Nana weekend is a guaranteed good weekend, filled with visits from cousins, cheesies and chocolate. Because of the added bonus of it being Valentine’s day weekend, I’m sure the latter will be in abundance and that no amount of hypnotizing or warm baths with baby powder will slow down her engine.
But on grandmother weekends we let go and relax. We don’t give a shit that Wren stays up later than her grandmothers do, that the baby ends up eating ice cream, that the kids bathe in perfume scented baths. On grandmother weekends, chocolate Nesquick mix is considered a health food and obnoxious children’s songs play on repeat for hours.
I don’t know if it’s possible to miss something you never had, but if it is, I do. I never had a grandmother to experience weekends like this, but in living through them with my kids, I sure wish I did.
Wren and Millie have two extraordinary examples of grandmothers. Two white Honda drivers. Two worriers. Two women who ask us to call them after each and every drive home to make sure we got back safe. Two fiercely independent women. Two women who took financial responsibility for their families. Two women who separated from their husbands and survived it and kept their family together. Two providers.
I never knew my grandmothers, because cancer took away that opportunity for me, but I know that I think of them often now that my children have grandmothers who are so heavily involved in their lives. And from everything I experience through them, I feel I missed out all the more.
From what I know of my mom’s mom, Evaline, she loved the outdoors, but she ran the household, too. She wrote every single day about the weather in her journal in order to reflect and remember how to make the farm run smoothly for the next year.
She wore a kerchief around her neck, and was the first to rise each morning to do chores, and the last to bed once the kids were settled with their warm brick from the fire at their feet.
She hooked a rug and made a quilt each winter to keep warm. She was an amazingly efficient milker of her cows, and loved every minute spent at home on the farm with them.
She would raise five children, three girls and two boys, on their hilltop homestead. Seniority reigned at home, meaning the eldest would be the first to the basin of bathwater and the youngest would be the last. The men would be the first to eat, and she and my mom, being the youngest, were always last, if any was left.
If her politician husband brought a guest home to eat on the weekend, she would make do by grabbing a head of lettuce out of the garden and mixing together soured cream from the cow with mustard and sugar from the pantry as a dressing.
Every so often, she would set up a picnic blanket alongside the highway and the kids would spend the afternoon there, while she visited with her best friend, Jean, or her sister-in-law, Mae.
Each of her children were brought up to be fiercely independent, and to value hard work. Her first daughter went on to look after the family farm and to teach, her second became a nurse, her eldest son became a lawyer, her youngest son an entrepreneur and her youngest daughter, my mom, a jack of many trades, as explained in last week’s post.
Her life was brief, but meaningful. It was said in her eulogy that God must have known Evaline needed a much-deserved rest when she was lost so prematurely at the age of 52.
My mom’s parents never had the opportunity to meet my dad’s, but the matriarch on my dad’s also held the home together and raised a healthy brood.
On my dad’s side, my grandmother Lillian grew up on a farm too, and loved going to dances. She reeled in a younger man to marry, and left her teaching career to go on to raise four children, three girls and a boy.
Lillian didn’t like to drive the demo cars her car salesman husband brought home, but when he got his hands on a half-ton truck, you couldn’t keep her away from the driver’s seat. Lillian baked on Thursdays to be ready and prepared for the week to come, but you were not to gorge. And if there were sandwiches in the fridge without crusts, that meant they were not for household consumption.
At church each Sunday the kids were not to talk at all, but you were to speak to others at all other times and be especially kind toward the elderly. She encouraged her children to care for their things, and that if they were going to do a job, to do it as you would for yourself.
Lillian had a love for fishing, and for being near the ocean. She loved the sunshine, but never owned a pair of shorts and you were not to splash her when she went in the water.
Lillian wore funky eyeglasses and loved sundresses and a good bargain. She never drank and never smoked, but loved to treat herself by getting her hair done, and would fall asleep in the salon as soon as her turn began.
Dad’s mom died prematurely at the age of 59, and had her girls brush her hair during their final hours together.
Her three girls went on to be nurses and her son followed his dad’s footsteps in the sales business. Each of her children are extraordinarily family-centered, and are compassionate and generous with their time and money.
We are all a pretty tight-knit family, despite distance. My upbringing was perfect, though without the insight that only a child’s grandmother can provide.
So even though I’ve tripped over Wren’s bag set out here three times today, I can’t blame her for her excitement. It’s a beautiful thing to have a grandmother.
Though I didn’t get to spend time with mine, I think of them when I’m secretly searching livestock for sale on kijiji, or when I’m taking stiff bedsheets off the clothesline to prepare for a guaranteed good night’s rest.
Perhaps I’m channeling Evaline when I’m chasing a calf back into pasture with a shovel in each hand, or Lillian when I’m dancing in the kitchen for no reason at all.
We all carry with us the people of our past. I think of my grandmothers and I miss them, but appreciate them for the legacy they’ve left behind. My mom is a piece of her mom, my dad a piece of his, and I, therefore, a piece of mine. I hope, then, there’s enough of my grandmas in me, so that my children can grow to become the kind, strong, resilient and hardworking women I know they can be.
The women in my family have all kicked ass. It’s a lot to live up to, but it’s the lot I live for.
So no, I don’t have a bag to pack for grandma’s- but she’s in that field when I’m drilling a fence shut and she’s in my kitchen when my baby is clapping at my horiffic attempts to channel Queen B’s dance moves.
And I can live with that.