Memories of Nana

My two year old grandson got me thinking this morning. he apparently pointed at the little photo of me on Facebook, and said “Nana in there!”

That brought back some memories for me; just odd little things that I remember from when I was a child. Probably the earliest memory is of sitting in my pram with the hood up. The trim was the wrong side of the Greek key pattern. My mother told me she put away the pram a couple of months before my brother was born, so I wouldn’t think he was in my place, so I couldn’t have been more than 15 months old.

I had a dummy as a baby, and my next, very clear memory is of my Nana picking up my dummy and saying “Jennifer” When I held out my hand for it, she threw the dummy in the fire. I don’t remember any great distress over that, I just accepted it was gone, and as I didn’t know you could buy them in the shop, I don’t think I made a fuss. Later though, when my brother was newly born, I remember stealing his dummy, and sitting in Nana’s leather armchair with my head under a cushion so nobody would know what I was doing.

Just a few months before my Mum died, she mentioned that at about that time, I would talk about wanting to see the “pignig.” They couldn’t let me see it, because they didn’t know what I was talking about. Fifty years later  I was able to enlighten her. It was the teddy bear’s picnic. I think I mixed up an actual memory of my Dad pushing me in a pushchair and lifting me up to show me children playing on swings and slides, with a dream, where the children were bears, dressed in clothes. I know my Dad used to sing “The Teddy Bears Picnic” to me, so that might explain it!

My Grandad died when we were in Germany. My Dad was in the Army. I have three clear memories of Grandad. The first is of standing between his legs for a cuddle. He had thrombosis, so couldn’t sit me on his knee. The second is of eating his dinner, sharing with him. Mum had told me he was very fastidious about food, so it didn’t really add up, until she told me that at about eighteen months I stopped eating. They discovered that if I thought my Grandad was giving me his dinner, I would eat, so Nana started putting both meals on a huge serving platter, one at each end.

The third memory is of Elsie Shufflebottom. Elsie lived at the bottom of the yard. She always got the best, a share of Grandad’s sweets, a bit of his icecream. Worse than that, she was beautiful. She had long curly hair, so long she could sit on it. She apparently only appeared when I wasn’t there, and Grandad described her clothes to me …”Do you know, she had the bonniest pinny I’ve ever seen!” He would tease me with “Well I’d like to give you some of this, but I promised Elsie Shufflebottom she could have it. Then he’d relent, saying as she wasn’t there just then, I could have it instead. I was very jealous of Elsie!

My memory of my Nana is more hazy, but just as precious. It’s of a feeling, rather than of a particular event. It’s a feeling of great love and security. Feeling safe, and just knowing that she really, really loved me. There are lots of things I do remember. Helping her with the mangle in the back yard, going with her to the town, visiting the indoor market, and having a drink in Woolworths, sitting up on a swivel stool. Her sitting in her chair by the back window in the “kitchen”, which was what we’d call the living room now. But the main memory is the one I’d really like my Grandchildren to have of me.. a memory of a Nana who really really loved them.


Does the tiger ever sleep?

Does the tiger ever sleep?

Does the tiger ever sleep? I’m talking about the tiger that moves into your belly with the foetus, takes up residence and never seems to move out, just directs business from somewhere inside. Sleeping a lot, but waking up from time to time to protect her young.

It starts from the moment you realise you’re pregnant… that need to protect from harm, no matter what. For me, with all four of my babies, that meant I had to protect the baby from their father driving too fast.

“But I’m only doing 30mph!”
“It doesn’t matter, slow down, it feels too fast for me”

For some reason, I had to also protect them from alcohol. Not that I’d ever drunk a lot of alcohol, but suddenly even the thought of it made me feel sick. And coffee! How could people bear the smell?

Of course, protecting the baby also means feeding it what it needs; Mine needed various different things at various different stages… Bounty Bars, grapefruit ice lollies, fish and chips, and Bakewell tart. The tiger forced the baby’s father to drive miles sometimes to get these things, and often, once I’d got them, I’d gone off the idea. Luckily by the time the need for Bakewell tart arrived, I was in hospital on bed rest, and my lovely Mother in Law provided me and the rest of the ward with tins of the stuff… and very delicious it was too!

The tiger slept for a while after the births, but was always sleeping with one eye open, just in case somebody should do harm to the baby. She’d watch like a hawk in case somebody contaminated a teat with an unsterilized finger, or even worse tried to pacify a crying baby by letting him or her suck a finger!

Unfortunately, she slept through the two hours I left my first baby outside the shop across the road. Luckily, when he might have been in danger, the ladies in the shop watched him instead…

School was a very difficult time for the tiger. Handing over control to someone else was difficult at times; after all how could they know how to care for a child they didn’t know? How would they know that my child was different? Was more sensitive than the others? Needed more understanding? Might be being bullied?

And when there was a genuine threat to my child,, as when  two of my children were involved in road accidents, the tiger morphed into a wolf, who howled with the horror of what she might have lost, had the cars been going more quickly, or had the drivers had slower reactions. For weeks afterwards, I dwelt on what had happened, thanking God that my precious children were not seriously injured.

Over the years, the tiger/wolf emerged from time to time, mostly as a reaction to bullying. As the children grew into adulthood, I thought perhaps the tiger would move out at last, that I’d be able to relax, but no. At the slightest hint of criticism of any one of my children, I’d feel the familiar stirrings, even though now the criticism was most likely to come from one or other of my children, rather than from an outsider.

The births of my grandchildren were difficult times. my need to protect now also extended to my sons’ partners. I worried about them, wishing I could go through the births for them, spare them the pain. After the births, I worried about post natal depression, watched for it, and agonised because I understood what it felt like, and wanted to take it away, kiss it better like I had done with bumped heads when they were children.

And now, when my Grandchildren have to face something difficult, like a new school, or a criticism from a teacher (unfounded, of course!) I feel those familiar stirrings inside, and realise that the tiger never leaves… and she never really sleeps.

New Addition

Yesterday I received the wonderful news that my youngest daughter is expecting her fourth baby. It’s very early days; The baby is not due until November. To a lot of people there isn’t a baby, there is an embryo, just a complex clump of cells, multiplying all the time, but not, as yet, a baby.

To me though, that bundle of cells is very definitely a baby. He or she is loved and wanted already. We can have some idea of looks, even some idea of character and personality, because we have three other wonderful children who have been born into the family already. The new baby will probably bear a resemblance to one or other of the children, or to his or her parents. Actually, what the baby looks like matters not one jot, because looks don’t have any bearing on what a child is really like. The baby will be beautiful to us, his or her family, anyway. Don’t we all have the most beautiful baby in the maternity ward?

Years ago, I had a friend who fostered new born babies prior to their adoption. She was showing me photographs of the babies, and one stood out from the rest as being a particularly beautiful baby. He was adorable. She told me his story, how a prospective adoptive mother had broken down and told the social worker that she didn’t know how to tell her husband that the baby didn’t feel like hers, that she didn’t feel she could love him. There was an element of being scared, too. She was terrified that if she turned down this baby, she wouldn’t be offered another. The social worker helped her to tell her husband, and a few weeks later they were offered the next baby that my friend fostered.

We have a term in our family to describe babies that are not really very pretty. We call them “huggly”. They are still loveable, and you want to hug them, but they are not really very beautiful to look at. This second baby was such a child. His new mother walked in and fell in love with him immediately. To her he was the most beautiful child she’d ever seen, he was hers. I like to imagine that when they took him to the clinic, no other baby would be as beautiful as their’s. They’d have felt smug as they compared him to other babies there. If they’d known the word, they’d have said that all the other babies were huggly, not like their beautiful boy.

That’s how it should be, that’s how it is. The phrase “He has a face only a mother could love” is very true.

This new baby, this Grandchild, will be loved and welcomed into our family just as all the others have been. It doesn’t matter that this is the eleventh child born into that generation of the family. The baby is just as wanted as the first Grandchild was, nineteen years ago. We’ll be just as excited to see what the baby looks like, to find out the birth weight, to hear the name chosen, to have a cuddle.

So Congratulations to my daughter and her partner. you’re doing a great job with the others, and I have no doubt that you’ll do as well with this new little bundle.

Congratulations to our lovely teenage Grandson, who is a boy to be proud of. I know it isn’t easy to have all these little ones around, after ten years as an only child. I know you lose patience sometimes, you wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t. You are a really great big brother though, and we are all very proud of you.

Toddler…you are an absolutely lovely, lively, gorgeous little boy. You have coped well with being a big brother so far, and we’re proud of you too.

And baby, you have no idea what is going to happen, but I’m sure you will greet your new little sibling in the way you greet everyone else, with a big beaming smile. You, like all the others are absolutely adorable. Who could not be proud of a child like you?

Yesterday afternoon I didn’t know we were going to have a new baby in the family. Now I know, I’m so thrilled and excited, and I really can’t wait!