My salad dressing days

In memoriam
September 14, 2005, 9:05 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s been almost one year since the last time I saw you and somehow it bothers me how easily I have adjusted to your not being in the world.

Not that I saw you as often as I would have wanted, but I miss our regular phonecalls. ‘How are you?’ I’d ask. ‘Oh, still breathing!’ you’d hoot. ‘Well, that’s always a good start!’ I’d reply. You’d ask after Mr Chick and later the chicklets. Sometimes you would mistake me for one of my sisters and ask after my brother-in-law. And usually, rather than shame you into realising your error, I’d just go along with it and make up an appropriate tale or story.

I told you, some years ago, that I was going to do a project and video you talking about your life. But then I got busy and it didn’t happen, so I try to keep in my head all the stories you ever told me…

How you were one of just a handful of children in your class who had shoes to wear to school. How the parents of the poor kids pawned their smart clothes every Monday morning, only buying them back to wear to church on Sunday.

How the six years of the Second World War were some of the best of your life. Although you had already met the man you were later to marry, in 1939 you were twenty-one and single and the war afforded you freedom and adventures you never would have experienced otherwise. Dispatched to a military base hundreds of miles from your parents, you danced away your early twenties with American GIs. I lost count of how many times you told me the story of when you were the ‘belle of the ball’ dressed as Mary Queen of Scots…

How you tended to and cared for the cousin you never got along with until she died. You were already in your 80s, but you dutifully travelled across town several times a week to visit her, bearing food and gossip, which she doubtless cherished.

And then there are my own memories of you…

The stovies you used to cook for my sister and me when we were living with you. Little did I realise at the time what a dietary disaster zone they were (potatoes and beef dripping, with the occasional onion thrown in), but they were unspeakably delicious.

How you cried when my sister and I gave you a Margaret Mitchell novel as a present to thank you for looking after us.

How you called me into your living room one morning, where I found you and your friend Lily both giddy with excitement and a lack of sleep, to tell me that you had had ‘a big win’ at the bingo and swearing me to secrecy ‘until the cheque was cashed’. How I revelled at being instructed by to withhold information from my parents!

The contents of your handbag: always a handful of boiled sweets and toffees, some of which had come out of their wrapper, but always available to offer to your sweet-toothed granddaughters; fat black marker pens (for bingo); cigarettes and lighters and lipsticks.

How you would arrive back from town and stick your head around the door, exclaiming merrily: ‘Girls! I’ve got a rhubarb tart from Jenners and some cream cakes from Marks’ for tea!’

How fond you were of Mr Chick (his stock rose the minute you learnt of his Scottish ancestry). ‘So clever!’ you would announce to others, ‘But you’d never know it!’. You meant it as compliment, but it always made us laugh.

I’m so glad that you got to meet the chicklets. From the fog of your ever-worsening memory loss, with a chicklet on your knee, you began singing a rhyme I had never heard (‘One, two, three, four – Mary at the cottage door – Eating cherries off a plate – Five, six, seven, eight’). We still sing it now.

How the acceptable time for your first brandy of the day crept back and back until it was ‘just after lunch’.

But most of all, your great sense of fun and ability to laugh at yourself.

And your last words? ‘It’s awful being old…I’m past my sell-by date!’ (And I know you would have smiled, as we all did, when your eldest great-granddaughter darted out of the pew and appeared to make a headlong dash for the coffin at your funeral.)

JWS (‘Gran’), 14 April 1918 – 14 November 2004


15 Comments so far
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knocking on her door and hearing “Oh its yerself is it? Come away in…”

Comment by suburban bantam

i loved my nanny very, very much but never realised it until it was almost too late.
she’s been gone for 11 years this year so never got to meet small person.

dammit, i miss her. thanks for this post…a happy sort of sad if you know what i mean.

Comment by surly girl

Oh gosh, UC, that was such a nice thing to do. The old bat would have been delighted to read it and not a little non-plussed by the technology involved. Even mobile phones were a mystery to her! Thank you so much.

Comment by motherhen

What a lovely gran. Your description put across what a character and a good person she must have been.

Are your word verifications getting longer (more letters in them?)?

Comment by Justine


tzslu: The sound you make when you try & suck into your sinuses any eye leakage, because you’re a bloke.

Comment by Stef the engineer

This is such a lovely piece. Your gran sounds perfect, and I can see that you get some of your humor from her.

This is the third blog I’ve visited this morning, and the third that’s made me cry (first Godless Mom about her little girl going of to kindergarten; then Barbara and her dog’s decline; now you and your gran). Yowzers! But I enjoyed them all very much.

Comment by Meegan

What a beautiful, reverent post UC. You’re lucky to have had such a lady in your life.

Looking at your gran’s birthdate made me feel funny.
My Mom was born one year and one day earlier, April 13, 1917!
She’s 88 and I’m going to go visit her tomorrow. I guess she’s old enough to be my gran but she had me late (as I mentioned to surly girl, I’m the last of a big brood!)


Comment by Kyahgirl

what beautiful and heartfelt words you have shared with about your granny. She is lucky to have you to remember her and share her spirit with the world.

Comment by BarbaraFromCalifornia

This is so beautifully written. I’m a little breathless. I’ve never visited your blog before and I don’t know you (do I?) but I want to come back and back.
And I want to thank you, too, for giving me/us these moments from your life.

Comment by Laura

I remember her lovely silver raincoat…what style! It must be in the genes…

Comment by the plate invigilator


I feel much the same way about my grandmother, who passed a few years ago. So I’m trying to write a little book (just for the family) about her. 🙂

Comment by Diana

I loved what one other commentor said……….a happy sort of sad if you know what I mean.
This was beautifully written.
The gifts seem to have run in the family.
I love coming back to read you.

Comment by LLT

You honored her beautifully. xoxo

Comment by mireille

Thank you for posting this beautiful tribute, and thanks to mireille for turning me on to your blog. Not sure how I’ve managed to miss it thus far, but I’m linking to ensure I won’t again.

Thank you for bringing home memories of my own Nana. So many people in our lives we don’t fully appreciate because we’re young and they’re not…regrets later when they’re gone. Please write down her stories. The chiclets will appreciate them some day.

Comment by cjblue

What a wonderful woman. Am awed by your writing, and the littlest bit jealous of your granny.

Comment by Whinger

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