things I remember, the Nana version

I remember the clematis winding up the side of the cabin, deep purple faces turning to the little bit of sun between the trees on the mountain top.  Nana must have whispered charms and sprinkled Gaelic faerie dust to get them to grow there.

I remember the smell of the wood stove Nana cooked on, how the scent seeped into my clothes while we there, but I didn’t notice until I unpacked my bag at home – each time, I didn’t want to wash those clothes and lose that smell.

I remember the mouse Nana put in her hair before Sunday mass.  It was her way to dress up, to tidy her auburn curls; later she would let those curls go to silver, like a shining crown.

back in the day: Kristina took these with my then-new digital camera

I remember when my best friend and I visited the summer before high school and we found an aged bottle of Cover Girl liquid foundation in the medicine cabinet.  We promptly “tried it” until the bottle was empty. I still love and detest the smell of Cover Girl makeup.

I remember when I started high school and Nana complimented my school uniform, including the stiff white blouse.  As I left the room, Nana called out in her brogue, “But haven’t you got a braaaaaa?” where bra rhymed with ‘land’ and was three syllables long.  My mother was somewhat horrified that Nana had noticed and mentioned it.   Mum said, “I’ve been meaning to get her more undershirts.”  Then it was my turn to be horrified; even though I didn’t “need” a bra, I wanted one, to acknowledge my grown-up-ness.  Another cotton undershirt would keep me in childhood.  I remember wondering why Nana could see me growing up, but my mother would not.

I remember how easy it was to do dishes, or sweep up, or help out in any of a dozen ways at Nana and Pop’s cabin.

I remember Nana’s ready laugh – one of the most glorious sounds of my childhood.  She enjoyed a grandchild’s knock-knock joke as easily as a bawdy tale.  Nana’s laugh could wrap me up in safety and happiness.

I remember working with Nana in her garden, pulling weeds from the summer-dusty soil or standing side-by-side picking green beans from a vine.  We chatted then, and I told Nana things I shared with no one else.

I remember the sharp steam of vinegar, rising and filling the hot kitchen, as Nana made pickles from the harvest.  My favourites were the cauliflower-green bean mustard pickles.  They were Nana’s favourite, too.  Oh, and the pickled crab-apples with cloves.

Nana making bread with my two (much-younger) sisters. Nana knit Elizabeth’s blue sweater.

I remember Nana telling me, “Keep the boys at arm’s length,” and I would laugh back, “Of course Nana, right within my arms’ length,” making a hugging motion.  At first Nana was distressed, then it became our joke.

I remember the brown + cream patterned dishes at Nana’s – how special they felt, how they were used for every meal.  I have a pair of those cups-and-saucers, along with a pair of dessert dishes in my kitchen, and I cherish every cup of coffee or scoop of ice cream from them.

I remember the way Nana asked about my “darling daughter” every time we spoke, and how delighted she was to meet Kristina the first time, every time.  I sent Nana photos of Kristina as she grew, and when we visited, there would be a collage of children’s photos on the refrigerator.  Kristina was always delighted to see her place in this collection – her place in the family documented and secure even though we lived far away.

I remember Nana’s 90th birthday party – it was Pop’s last time leaving the care home for a family event, and he was aware and present for that celebration with Nana and family.

I remember when Nana met Ed.  She could see what we were together, and said she expected the next time we met, Ed and I would be Mr. and Mrs.  Less than a month later, she took a turn for the worse.  A few days after that, she was gone.  I’m so grateful she and Ed met each other, each so important in my life – Nana, with the stories of my past, and Ed, with the promise of my future.

Nana died six years ago.  I still miss her every day.



  • Oh my goodness, Jet – what wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing them. (I love that you have some of your Nana’s dishes. Some day I want to have some of my grandmother’s blue and white ones.)

    • Thank you, Katie. I’ve not been here (or elsewhere on the internet) much, with Kristina’s graduation and getting ready to travel. I am looking forward to catching up on my Google Reader.

      Getting these dishes out of the cupboard feels sacred, and I also make a point to use them, as Nana did.

  • I am coming back to this beauty of a post. I read it yesterday, and I cried for a while. Very quite tears, a whimper cry, that unexpectedly bubbled up from a very deep place. Your post is so awesome. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories and writings sister bear. I found your words moving.

    I loved working in the garden with nanna. It inspired me to want a garden when i grow up. I have a little balcony garden now, and I look forward to growing more of my food when i have a grown-up garden.

    That purple clematis outside Nanna’s bedroom window lived on love and faerie dust for sure. Nanna was part Fae I am sure of it.

    I love nanna’s laugh, sometimes if i close my eyes and focus on how much i love her i can ‘hear’ it.

    I loved the smell that lingered in my clothes after we left nanna and pop’s. I also never wanted to lose that smell. for a long time i kept a sweater that nanna had made for me in a bag and i would periodically open the bag and sniff it and then seal it back up to preserve the incredible smell that would transport me back to the cabin, and many summers spent working and playing along side nanna.

    It is amazing to me that some of the hardest labour didn’t really feel like work along side nanna, it felt like stuff to do with your bodies while you connected with greatness. If felt like I was helping someone who truly valued and appreciated my assistance, my time, and me. Nanna knew more about contributing to community, food security, and doing what you can with what you got than any other person I have met so far.

    I remember nanna’s mouse and also her love of pretty shoes (i think it is genetic), and she also loved hats.

    Pop would sometimes say that: “nanna was a real dish in her day” and I know that he thought she was a dish from the day he met her, and likely still does, as I like to think of them being together again.

    I miss nanna everyday too. I know that she is here in essence in side of each of us: twinkling in the light encoded filaments of our DNA, and also in our hearts, words, thoughts and actions.

    turns out i guess i had quite a lot to write about Nanna too… thank you sister bear.
    I hope you are having an incredible time where you are with your girl.
    love you. so much.

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