Sunday, February 01, 2009

Happy 101st

Today is Brigid, Imbolc, Candlemas, the 4th birthday of my best friend's daughter and would have been the 101st birthday of my lovely Gran.

Seems a bit early to be celebrating the first day of spring but this date traditionally marks the start of lambing season and the first signs of new growth. We've actually had snow today, unbelievably for London. In fact it's still snowing and outside, London is the most amazing colour - the light from the city is being bounced back and forth between the clouds and the ground and outside everything is a fantastical orange, despite being nearly midnight. Under the snow however we have the shoots of crocuses up already and our cherry and pear trees are in bud... spring is unbelievably nearly here. A time for looking forward to growth in our own lives but for me, a time to look back as well and remember my Gran a little bit.

I was thinking about her all day today and wishing I'd thought before her 100th to make a picture book of some of the great times we've spent together, me and my Gran.

Our first visit alone together was when I was 17 or 18 and after that I stayed many a time with her at her little lake house just the two of us; we would play cards and skinny dip and drink gin and each visit she'd teach me a little more about how to use her massive floor loom, which is now sitting in the attic at the studio waiting for me to string it up again.

We did other things together though, me and my Gran. When I moved back to England in 95, she came out for a visit (she would have been 87) and we spent a week in the Lake District. We got a room in a little B&B and every other day we would have an outing. We took a guided mini-bus tour and I have a great picture of her up by the standing stones at Kendal. We took a boat across Windermere and sat wrapped up and reminiscing about times we had both visited as children. Every other day we would stay in, have our meals delivered, drink sherry and play cards while she rested.

For her 95th, she and I and my parents took the cruise from Vancouver to Alaska and the two of us shared a cabin. Gran, who by that point would convince anyone who didn't know better that she was a complete tea totaller, brought 3 bottles of sherry on board for the week and left nothing but dead soldiers. I may have helped a bit. One night we were reading in bed when she knocked her sherry into the base of her bedside lamp which promptly hissed and started sparking blue flames. I dashed the switch off at the wall and before we called the steward she begged me to clean it up so they wouldn't know she'd been drinking. I obediently sponged down the mess, dried it and we rang for the steward, telling him all wide-eyed that it had just started sparking. He promptly turned it back on to test it and the smell of hot sherry filled the room while the two of us wept with silent laughter and tried not to catch each other's eyes. That same trip we took a helicopter ride - the first one for each of us - and at 95 years old she climbed out of the damn thing and walked on the glacier with her stick.

When she went last year, I was glad for her as she was really ready to move on. She'd lived well, left an amazing legacy of life and laughter and was hopefully at peace with God. Had she lived to today I suspect she would have had some serious words on the matter with whomever was fortunate enough to finally meet her at the pearly gates and take her across to the summerlands and so today I remember her fondly and happily but, nonetheless,with no small measure of loss.



jaguarish said...

I've really enjoyed reading your blog and this post in particular has been a wonderful few moments to spend with your memory of your gran. Thanks for sharing.

Rose said...

Awesome. Thanks for sharing this and adding to my memories of Gran. Remember those frosted plastic cups with the lemons on them? I would kill for those now. The sound of the ice clinking, the tonic fizzing, the smell of the gin...just add the smell of lipstick and a sloppy kiss, and there's Granny in the summer. And the smell of lake water, the feel of the sun on those adirondak chairs that grandad built...

We were SO lucky, you know?

Jonny's Mommy said...

Your gran was awesome! I remember you writing about her before when she passed. I just love to hear the stories about her and you together.

My grandmother was similar, but without the drinking. She was quite a character, who I thought would live until 100 but only lived until 93. Even until the end she was as sharp as a tack and as witty as ever.

She could be critical and hurt my feelings a couple of times, but I was one lucky girl to have a grandmother as awesome as she was. I had two great ones, actually.

You brought back some memories for me too!

Michelle said...

I too love hearing all about your Gran and the great fun that you had together. What a life! I'm so glad that you have such great memories to hold onto.
I just spoke with my own grandmother tonight. She's going to Seattle for heart surgery on Tuesday. At 86, she's no spring chick but she has the wit and wisdom of the best of them. I'll be thinking of my Grandma these next few days, too.

Anonymous said...

I almost cry when you describe your gran. My gran and I sailed from Denmark to Scotland some years back, and even though I was under the legal drinking age at the time, I seem to remember nothing but lots and lots of J&B enjoyed over endless games of gin rummy. Oh yes, and Hadrian's Wall.

Sparx said...

Jaqguarish - thank you so much - and thank you for commenting!

Rose - I know. Those glasses are family heirlooms, I hope someone has them safely! I can't remember the number of times I've watched the bubbles rise in a good G&T in those glasses. We were indeed very very lucky. And, I've taken some great pics of those chairs over the years, still trying to locate one of them in the snow to make a set for everyone.

Jonny's Mommy - I think the thing about people who are now over the age of 80 is that they weren't bred to mind people's feelings as much as we are now and certainly, by the time I get to that age I don't imagine I'll be holding back on much either! We're so lucky to have known them though.

Michelle - I hope her surgery goes well. I'm sure it will, they wouldn't take any risks with someone of her years. Glad you spoke to her, you're lucky to have her!

Jennie - sounds like my Gran! Denmark to Scotland drinking J&B - wonderful! PS, still snowing here, you can have as much as you want!

DJ Kirkby said...

Your posts about your Gran always make me feel a bit weepy, in a good way, I think. xo