In retrospect, my Nana was the first person I ever met who in many - not all - but many ways, was like me. Losing her was hard. She was at once serious and intellectual, and … kooky. Her given name was Laura. Her friends called her Pixie. She liked to drink and gamble, and have fun. She told the worst jokes and puns, and had once been known for her singing voice. She had travelled the world. My grandfather, Francis, adored her. She was ten years his junior, his secretary, when they met; he fell madly in love, pursued her, and when he returned from WWII, they married.
I met my Nana when I was 10. In our first real interaction, I told her to shut up and mind her own business. She cried. This warranted punishment - but she didn’t rat me out. This was a pivotal moment for me. A first in someone choosing to be nice to me for no real reason, and when I didn’t deserve it. We became fast friends.
We shared a room. I took top bunk, she took the bottom. We’d stay up late to watch Bizarre with John Byner and Super Dave Osborne; and when my mum would yell out for her to turn off the TV and let me sleep on a school night, Nana would wait a few minutes before sneakily turning down the volume and putting it back on so we could keep on watching. She got me into Shatner and the original Star Trek; I’d been a Next Generation fan only up to that point. Nana taught me a gazillion card games, and we’d play for hours. She made me scones and pancakes, and banana fritters, and fried battered onion bits, and most especially tea just the way I like it. She accidentally dyed her hair bright orange. Years later I accidentally dyed my hair bright magenta. She hugged me all the time, and told me she loved me and was proud of me. But what really bonded my Nana and me was that we liked to prank each other hard.
My favourite memory is the time her plan to scare me backfired. I’d liked hiding behind doors or in closets, in the kitchen cabinets, etc., and then jumping out to scare her. Naturally, she wanted revenge. One day as I was entering my room, I noticed that she lay crouched on the floor in the dark, this very elderly woman, waiting to spring up to scare me. She hadn’t managed to notice me opening the door. I pulled it back quickly and silently. I found my mother - already in a bad mood - and told her that I thought the door was making a funny noise; could she please come check it out? The door opened, the light turned on, and up jumped my Nana screaming, “BOOOOOO-----ACKKK!!!” Joy turned to shock and horror at the sight of my clearly not amused mum, victory to defeat. As mum yelled at Nana, I stood behind in the doorway, silently laughing to my heart’s content.
|The same terrible hairstyle across three generations.|
My Nana was a fierce Scrabble competitor, and we battled often. When we knew we’d have our last moment together, we had it over a game of Scrabble. I beat her with two seven-letter words. Some might, and did, call me cruel. But as always, I did my best, just as she taught me. I gave her a real challenge, and a good game. And I knew she loved me for it.
So here’s to you Nana, on your birthday.
For everyone else, have a safe and Happy St. Paddy’s Day!
And stay the hell away from me gold.