Today is the Feast of Anna and Joachim, Jesus’ grandparents. So today I have been thinking of my grandparents.
My dad’s parents came from Polmont, near Falkirk. Grandpa was a head teacher at the Wellington School just outside Penicuik and that was where my dad was brought up – in a Borstel. He died when I was about 3 or 4 so I don’t have many memories of him – except one, when I remember sitting on his knee beside the fire in their retirement house in Morningside being taught that if you mixed red and blue paint you got purple. Grandma brings many more memories. She lived until Son #2 was a baby when she died in a fire (on the same day as Gracie Fields who she detested, btw, but Grandma got higher billing on the front page of the Evening News!) She was a poppet, a gentle soul who loved everyone and never had a bad word on any subject, except Catholics bizarrely enough but I suspect that was due to her upbringing. I remember caramel wafers and other ‘wrapped’ chocolate biscuits which was a treat for us poor souls. At Christmas she always had a box of Sobranie cocktail and rainbow cigarettes on the table, brought back from one of her sons who lived in Kuwait. ( In my teenage years, I was known to abscond with them.) She moved to Newington to live in a flat below my dad (in a house that had belonged to Moira Shearer of The Red Shoes fame) and gradually became more bewildered. I loved visiting her because she had lovely paintings and looked after us well. There was talk of her going into a nursing home when she started locking herself out and leaving pots to burn dry, but she died before that happened, trying to put out her electric blanket fire herself. Today I give thanks for her sense of fun, of giving, of loving, of charm.
My mum’s parents lived in Penicuik in the mill house at Eskbridge. My grandad died when I was 5 so again I don’t have many memories of him except being dragged round their garden in a cardboard box – oh, we knew how to have fun in those days! I also remember sitting next to him in the stick house in front of a large zinc bath plucking chickens. He was shy, gentle and kind. My granny, on the other hand, was a scary person. She never really liked me, or so I felt, because I was very like my dad and she never forgave him for divorcing my mum when I was five. We had to visit her every single Saturday in life – rain, sunshine or snow. I remember walking down the brae with snow up to my knees on some occasions. When we were very young she worked as a nanny to the Cowan children who were an important family in Penicuik and we got to go with her sometimes. Then she moved to John Street and we kept on visiting. Picking fault at make-up, clothes and hair seemed to be her favourite pastimes to me. Put it this way, she did nothing for my self-esteem! Other memories include knitting, a stuffed pheasant, wrestling on the TV with Big Daddy, trips to Peebles, church with pandrops and fur coats, great lentil soup and mince and tatties. And when she visited us it involved days of cleaning and tidying and she still could run a white gloved finger along a surface and find dust. I can’t remember what she died of but she lived to a good old age.
Today I give thanks for all of them. For their teaching and affirmations and love and fun. And perhaps for the lesson that I would never force my children to visit me.