I want to tell you a story about my paternal grandmother, my Nannan. She was petite with fiery red hair that she kept tamed under a headscarf whenever she left the house. Nothing tamed her temper though.
One day she was riding on the bus after going into town to buy a hammer for my Grandad, when she became uncomfortably aware of a man sitting near her. She decided to get off the bus a stop early, and just as the doors were closing, the man jumped off too.
She crossed the street, and the man did too, she tried to slow down to let him pass, but he dropped his pace accordingly. Alarmed, but alert, she recalled the hammer in her handbag, and quick as a flash whacked him on the head with it, then ran home.
She told my Granddad of her encounter, and he said next time she rode the bus, he’d come with her. The following week they got talking to another older couple on the bus, and my Granddad proudly stated that he was coming along for protection- not that his wife needed it.
Too right, responded the man, you can’t be too careful- only last week some mad woman hit me with a hammer! He then lifted his hat to show a nasty lump on his head, as his wife tut-tutted about the lunatics around!
And when she later recounted that story, there was no mention of how she’d misread the man’s intent, or how perhaps she shouldn’t have been so quick to violence, she merely congratulated herself that she’d adequately covered up the hair that would immediately identify her as the aggressor.
Yesterday I was making rhubarb and strawberry crumble for my family, and my Nannan’s wedding ring (which I’ve been wearing since this happened) fell into the flour. I was suddenly transported back thirty years, sitting in her kitchen watching as other hands wearing that ring made the pastry for her meat and potato pie.
That ring, that she wore every day of her married life, had never left England until it was given to me, after her death. Though she lived the longest of my grandparents, she never got to see me graduate, or get married, or meet her great-grand-children. She could never have imagined the places it would go.
She lived in the same place her whole life, and knew more about it than anyone else I’ve ever met. She knew every superstition, and lived her life according to them, though she wasn’t very religious. She had her own ways. She even had her own language. She called rides, from kiddie ones to roller-coasters “hurdy-gurdies.” I’d never heard anybody call them that before, but let me tell you- every one of her great-grandchildren does!
My Nannan was called Lily, and we gave Pudding that for her middle name. I’ve often wondered what she would have made of her first-born great-grandchild. So many times I wished that she could have met her.
She wouldn’t have had much time for things like diagnoses and therapies. They didn’t do things like that where she was from, another time, another place. I don’t think anyone ever questioned the way that she lived so rigidly according to routine that we had to all return from a trip early because she had to get back for laundry day.
We always took for granted her incredible memory, and the sharpness of her brain that did a crossword a day to the very end. She was a very unique and special lady. I wish I could talk to her now, catch her up on all the things she has missed. I hope that she is watching us ride the hurdy-gurdies.
Then I look at Pudding, and I think how right it was that she took her name. How they have so much in common, that it feels like some of Pudding is Lily. I could see my girl swinging that hammer if someone got too close to her.
One day, when it has made even more pastry, and navigated the world a little more, I’m going to give that ring to Pudding, and tell her all about how special its first owner was.