One of the women who had a big influence on my life was my Grandma. She was an important part of my childhood. I spent a lot of time with her before I started school and have fond memories of that period of my life. Both my grandfathers died before I was born and my Dad’s mother lived in England so I never met her. However, I feel the one grandparent I knew made up for not knowing the others.
One of the things that amazes me about my grandma is how she instinctively knew so many things about children. She never read a book about child rearing or watched a television program on the topic. There was no internet to refer to back then. So many of the activities I did at her place are things recommended by child experts these days.
I enjoyed helping Grandma in the garden. She showed me how to help plant bulbs and taught me to grow geraniums from cuttings. I learnt the names of the flowers in Grandma’s garden, gladioli, pansies, sweet peas, lilies and many more. As well I learnt a few tips for growing vegetables. Grandma loved her garden and I get a great deal of joy from pottering in my garden these days. Some of the flowers in my garden remind me of my Grandma.
I learnt about cooking by watching and ‘helping’ my grandma. She would tell me what she was doing and show me what to do. She passed on a love of food and would say, ‘It’s there to be eaten, not to be looked at.’
We would shell almonds together. Grandma had a small hammer she let me use as the big one was a bit heavy for my little hands.
Grandma gave me opportunities to be creative. There was a shed where I could hammer nails into scraps of wood and glue shells onto things. It is interesting to note Grandma did not stereotype the activities I did even though it was the late fifties. I remember her giving me a red car as a gift.
Grandma kept chooks and I liked to help feed them and collect the eggs. I recall Grandma digging up a patch of soil in the chook yard so they could eat some fresh worms. Those chooks had a varied diet which was based on ‘mash’ mixed with food scraps. I loved it when there were tiny chickens.
Grandma enjoyed nature. Sometimes we would go for a walk to the river and occasionally had a picnic. In the winter little brown frogs would come up from the river and sit on a piece of wood that floated in a tub that collected the overflow of water from the laundry roof. There was a magpie that was blind in one eye. Grandma would feed it mince meat. The magpie would stand on the verandah with its blind eye close to the wall.
There were plenty of children’s books at Grandma’s house. My Grandma also used to make up stories to tell her grandchildren. Today I enjoy reading and making up short stories. Grandma was a keen letter writer, a tradition I carry on, but not so much now that we have email.
A sandpit was located under the fig tree and a sturdy swing hung from that tree. Nobody had told Grandma the benefits of sand play and how relaxing it is for children. She just seemed to know. There was a collection of old kitchen utensils to play with in the sand pit.
Grandma had made two seats for the swing. One was big enough for a child to sit on. The other one was special. It was heavy and bigger. It was wide enough for a child plus Grandma to sit on together.
My Grandma died 25 years ago, aged 96. I am so grateful I was able to spend lots of time with her, pick up skills and be influenced by her.