My memories of my grandmother are very special to me. She died when I was in my twenties so she had a big impact on my adolescents as well as my childhood. She wasn’t what you’d call a typical grandmother. She wasn’t cuddly, always found in an apron baking cakes or sweet things or with a bun in her hair. She was smartly dressed, with a handbag like the Queen has draped over her arm, red lipstick and pearls. Most of the images of my grandmother that spring to mind are of her in a twin set. I don’t ever recall her wearing trousers but she must have done when she was on holiday. She always looked smart and well-presented and when smoking was still in vogue, she would have a cigarette in hand, taken from a cigarette holder which resided in that famous handbag.
I can remember my father was always the one to make her giggle. She did have a great sense of humour but she put on an air of indifference although when she cracked, her giggling was so infectious. Just before she died when she was silent and still with Alzheimer’s, she moved an eye lid to the sound of father’s voice – she wasn’t his mother but their connection was one of mutual respect and appreciation which had developed over many, many years.
She always had a wonderful smell about her. I can see her sitting at her dressing table using a powder puff to cover her face with powder. She must have worn perfume but I’m not sure of the make which is a shame as it would be an instance reminder of her. But she had great skin, albeit a bit weathered. If she was around today, she’d be using the best organic lip balm in Australia she could find but she probably made do with just her powder.
She was an amazing lady. She drove a fire engine during the blitz in London so she was no shrinking violet. She had a naval officer husband who was away at sea for years on end while she raised the family while doing her bit for the war effort. She lived a privileged but hard life as many did during those years. But best of all she was my grandmother. She had crayons and colouring books crammed into cupboards and a top drawer of a chest which was placed beside her favourite chair stuffed full of sweeties which all the grandchildren used to ‘borrow’ when she wasn’t looking! There was early morning tea, afternoon tea, presents from the Christmas tree to mention a few. Her glasses always had powder on them and that handbag never changed nor did her twin set and pearls. She was a one-of-a-kind.