Today, the 6th of January is known in Ireland as ‘Little Women’s Christmas’. Traditionally the last day of Christmas and a day for women to put their feet up and have a day off and for the men of the house to cater to them for a change. As with most traditions, today’s importance has long since faded – unless of course you live in Cork where apparently the custom is still widely practiced and the women of Cork put the feet up.
For me though, today has a much more important and sad association as it is the fifth anniversary of my grandmother’s passing. Anyone who has ever loved or lost a grandmother will agree that there is no bond quite like that of a grandmother and her grandchildren. A bond so heard to explain but so plain to see. It is a palpable love. An invisible link from her heart to theirs. I see it myself with my own mother and the close bond she has with my children. The excitement of a visit. Running to her with open arms and giddy joy. Cuddles and kisses sat upon her knee. Playing games, laughing and telling her their news. And no one makes mashed potato and gravy as nice as Nana’s – no matter how hard I try!
My Nanny was an amazing, kindhearted and generous lady. She had a great sense of humour and a sharp wit and was a great storyteller. And she could talk for Ireland! The gift of the gab is in our gene pool.
She loved to visit all the grandkids and often did the rounds travelling on her bus-pass to stay for a few days here and there with each of her offspring and their familes. We loved our visits from Nanny. Our faces would light up seeing her strong figure in her camel coat with her with her tote bags in hands walking up the drive. Her thick dark grey hair specially curled for the visit. She would sit beside us and patiently soak up all our updates and softly hold our hand in hers and sporadically come out with pearls of wisdom. “You need to stop biting your nails. Do you know what is great for nails? Jelly! Raw jelly is what you need” and on her next visit, however long after, she would have remembered my bad habit and extract a couple of packets of Chivers jelly out of her tote bag and insist I start eating it straight away. Dad too loved his mother’s visits as he would get well looked after with all his favourites like her apple tarts and shepherds pie and to reminisce on bygone days from the terrace where he grew up.
I didn’t always appreciate when Nanny came to stay. I regret being that awkward teenager who had to share my room.
“But Mam. She snores all night. I wont be able to sleep!”, I would plead ignorantly
I tried to get to bed and sleep before she did but when I would get to my room there she would be sat upright in the bed beside mine surrounded by collections of Hello! magazines and Sunday newspapers catching up on all the latest news and gossip. Their wasn’t a Hollywood star she didn’t know of. She would leaf through the glossy mags and announce who she thought looked the best at the Oscars. I would roll my eyes. My patience wore thin and I would eventually fall asleep to the sound of flicking pages and the folding of newspaper only to be woken hours later by the sound of her snoring. Interrupted sleep would soon be indefinitely broken and I would awake to a gentle nudge and a whisper of “do you need to wake up now for school? Come downstairs, I made you porridge”. A quick glance at the alarm clock that hadn’t yet sounded would tell me I should be asleep for another hour. At least.
The ruminating sound of delph clinking and pots from downstairs in the kitchen would mean that hour would be lost forever and up I and the rest of the family would get to have a very early breakfast with Nanny. With her morning smile my restless sleep would be forgotten.
Nanny’s visits were often used to our advantage too though. Particularly if they coincided with our school ‘home economics’ sewing or knitting projects. My sister and I would sit on the edge of the bed and randomly exhibit it our creations. Regardless of how good or miserably bad they were Nanny would hold them up to the light and admire our ‘attempts’ and say “beautiful. Well done” and would instantly set about to remedy the errors of dropped stitches in the knitting or the pulled and puckered sewing in the fabric. Behold come morning, like a scene from ‘The Elves and the Shoemaker’ we would awake to fully completed garments at the end of our bed. And yes Nanny’s handiwork was often made an example of by the Dominican nuns who taught our Home Ec. classes and we happily accepted the credit.
Sadly I can’t pass on the sewing and knitting skills (that I never truly learned or perfected) to my two daughters. But I will pass on Nanny’s many pearls of wisdom and recall the stories to them. My mind overflows with such happy memories of her but my heart aches for how much I miss her. I sometimes see a resemblance of her in my little girls’ faces. The flash of her smile in theirs or her cheeky twinkle in their eyes. I wish too that Nanny would have had the chance to meet my two wonderful little women and I would proudly say “Look what I made, Nanny” and I know she would reply
“Beautiful. Well done”.
– In memory of Nanny Winnie, an amazing lady and most beautiful soul whom I have ever had the joy of knowing.
Love you always & forever Nanny xxx