Amy Smith’s Eulogy for Her Grandmother
How do you remember a year in a life? -- The musical, Rent.
ITH THE LITTLE THINGS. It's the little things that make up a year, and the years which make up a life. It's the little things that make up the memories. And I have an abundance of those.
Sitting on the green couch listening to stories. Stories from her childhood, from the war years and beyond. Stories of playing with mice in the attic of the house -- her refuge as none of her siblings would go up there, stories of being tied up and gagged with a pickle in the mouth and shoved behind a cupboard by an exasperated older brother. Stories of shooting peas at the women in her father's factory. Of being found awake too early by her father one Christmas morning and being punished by having the presents taken away. Only she cried so much she was allowed to keep the doll. Of having some painful ailment and being carried kicking and screaming into the ocean by Sally because "Salt water will cure it." Of playing on a raft and having it sink. Everyone got off except May. They stood on the bank and watched it sink with May stubbornly repeating "I'm not going to swim". Grandma always laughed so much telling that story!
Stories of the war. Protecting the patients from bombs by putting them under the stairs. But the mothers and newborn babies went under their beds. Of bringing corn back after a visit back home and carrying the two pieces round the wards so every soldier could have a bite. Of working with blind children. Of going out into streets full of rubble. ("Were you scared, Grandma?" "No. I was always too busy looking after others to be scared.") Of meeting an Australian soldier during a dance in England. Of getting married.
I was fascinated by those stories. She told them so well. Over and over. She never seemed to get tired of me asking.
Christmas time. Luke, Grandma and I, then later Chloë and Laura. Lying in front of the fire writing letters to Santa and "posting" them up the chimney then racing outside to see the charred remains carried away by the breeze.
Snooping around trying to find the Christmas stockings she made out of old orange bags.
Pouring boiling water over almonds then "shooting" them out of their skins. They used to go all over the kitchen!
Mixing the ingredients in the big white bowl for the Christmas pudding and making a wish as you stirred.
Writing letters in our secret code.
Honey and Sultana sandwiches.
The big drawer filled with her homemade muesli.
Walking down to Red Rooster and Dairy Bell for lunch. Chicken, chips and vinegar. Ice-cream to follow. Her favourite was rum 'n' raisin.
Teaching me how to knit.
Playing in the old fig tree.
Sipping Ovaltine and listening to her read my favourite books. Going to sleep with my tiger nightlight shining next to me.
Down at "Burntwood".
Checking the eaves for the dreaded blackbirds' nests.
Flying homemade kites along the cliffs.
Walking along the deserted beaches in winter.
She knew every plant, animal and bird down there and she taught me. My bird was the Yellow Robin, hers, the Grey Shrike Thrush.
Waking up snuggled beside her in bed with the sun streaming through the windows and the birds' choir in full force.
Collecting and identifying seaweeds, then drying them in round tins filled with blue crystals.
Collecting "rabbit tails" and dying them with the red berries that grow down there.
Walking through the garden looking for the small, shy orchids.
Her beautiful, gentle voice. Her smile. Her hugs
These are the things I remember. These and many more.
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