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Fond Memories of A Quiet Grandmother

She truly taught me, the more things change, the more they stay the same

By ShadowsPub Published 4 years ago 8 min read
Image from Pixabay

Both of my grandmothers were born in the final years of the 1800s. Both of them lived more than 99 years. My paternal grandmother was 101 when she passed, my maternal grandmother 99.

They both lived through almost all of the 1900s. They lived through the Spanish Flu, the last global pandemic. Two world wars, the Great Depression, the start of the nuclear age, and all the other social and technological changes the 1900s brought us.

I have many fond memories of both of them, but today I’m going to talk about my maternal grandmother, Hilda. She was pretty traditional in her quiet way.

You’d think a pretty traditional lady would be one who never had or expressed anything but the most pious of thoughts. Especially in the era they were raised. Hilda looked the part of the sweet little old lady who wouldn’t say ‘shit’ if she had a mouth full. I can’t say I ever heard her say it.

I doubt she ever touched the five foot mark in height. I used to tease her that I could tuck her under my arm. She’d smile and say nothing. She was quiet and reserved until something caught her notice and then we’d see the mischief maker.

She was born in Nottingham, England and brought to Canada as a child. Most of her life was spent in Toronto except for a brief few years on a piece of land not far from where I currently live.

Her attitudes to life and people were shaped by the culture and events of the 20th century. Many of them would not be considered appropriate in this day and age. She didn’t impose them on others and usually I learned about them through her conversation and responses to situations.

Early 20th century Ontario mostly reflected the culture of Britain. The Canadian sensibilities on religion and ethnic origin would emerge much later in the century. Bias against Roman Catholics was still prevalent in both countries. It was waning here in Canada but, for Hilda, it had been instilled at an early age.

She was safe here in Canada during both wars, but lost family during the blitzkrieg of WW2. She had a deep and abiding distrust for both Germans and Roman Catholics. Rarely spoken of, it surfaced at times.

Christmas With Grandma

Christmas was always a hoot around Grandma. Most of the time us kids were better about leaving the gifts alone than she was. Sneaking to the tree when she thought no one noticed. Gifts were shaken and examined in an effort to guess the contents. The look of childlike anticipation on her face still brings a smile to my face. Those moments taught me, I didn’t have to always be grown up.

The “Catholic” Girlfriend

My eldest brother invited his fiance, Karen, to dinner when Grandma was visiting. It would be their first encounter. For reasons she never explained my mother informed grandma Karen was Catholic. Then she proceeded to prepare spaghetti for dinner.

Grandma spent most of the dinner intently watching Karen. Ever tried to eat something like spaghetti while intensely aware of someone staring at you? When the the stare is coming from a revered member of the boyfriend’s family, what could possibly go wrong?

Grandma was seated to my left and Karen across the table to my right, giving me a bird’s eye, but discrete, view of events. Karen alternated between trying to eat the spaghetti with dignity and trying to have polite conversation with those at the table under grandma’s watchful eye. Even I winced in sympathy for her.

As dinner drew to a close, with just dessert to be served, my grandma leaned over to my mother and whispered “she doesn’t look Catholic”. Being hard of hearing, her whispers were not really quiet.

The table erupted with laughter, Karen went beet red and stuttered.. “I don’t even go to any church! Why did you think I was catholic?!”

Mother quickly left the table to fetch dessert.

Gambling Granny

Grandma often enjoyed playing games with the family when she visited. Willing to try just about any game, we taught her a gambling game with dice.

It’s played with three dice. Roll as often as you want but you must get either a one, five or three of a kind on each roll or you lose your accumulated score for that turn. If you get three of a kind, you must roll again and get a one or a five. The game ends when a person reaches the agreed upon total score exactly. So, if you’re fifty away and get one hundred, you wait until the next turn to try again.

Here we are, gathered around the dining room table, grandma sitting quietly with her evening tea by her hand. The first few times the dice go around the table she’s pretty quiet. She’s getting her head around the game.

The score starts to get close and grandma is close but a couple of us are ahead of her. Appears grandma had a competitive streak.

Shaking the dice became a tad more enthusiastic. She tried blowing on the dice before throwing them. Then she threw them a tad harder, right off the table. Frustrated at the dice not giving her the scores she wanted, we suddenly heard, “You sons of Bs!!”.

Eyebrows went up around the table and laughter broke out. Mild mannered grandma had almost cussed in a loud voice. It was shocking from this sweet little lady who rarely raised her voice.

Realizing what she’d said she laughed and covered her mouth in surprise. We laughed some more.

Larcenous Granny

Grandma loved plants. Grandpa had a greenhouse when they lived in the country. She always enjoyed visits to a nursery in the spring. Nurseries are usually large well built greenhouses with dirt floors. As grandma aged, they were not the safest floors for her to walk on. I would accompany grandma while my mother was selecting her plants.

She’d pause at times to look at the plants. Not really interested in plants at the time, I was rather bored. I stopped patiently with her but often looked around for something to catch my interest. Little did I know, when I was looking away, grandma was up to no good.

As I later opened the car door for her, she pulled her hand out of her coat pocket. Plant leaves unfold as she opened her hand. “Hold these please.”

My jaw dropped. I asked her where she got them. Without as much as a quiver in her voice she told me “off the floor, they had fallen”. Had she bent over, I’d have caught the movement and checked if she was falling.

My larcenous granny had nipped leaves off plants to start new plants without buying seedlings. She had lived through the depression, you never wasted money.

“She’ll Have It Easier Than Me”

There are many stories I could share about grandma but I’m going to end on the more things change, the more they stay the same note.

I received a phone call from mother one morning. She needed to see me right away, privately. Her big news was my sister was pregnant and not married. Not a big deal to me, was to her. She insisted I had to go with her to grandma’s to tell her.

We spent the afternoon visiting with her, mother obviously avoiding telling her the news. As rush hour in Toronto approached, I informed her she either needed to say what she came to say or, we were taking grandma out for dinner. I wasn’t driving in rush hour traffic.

With considerable himming and hawing, she finally blurted out the news. Grandma sat quietly for a few moments.

“Well, she’ll have it easier than me.”

As the words registered, I cracked up laughing. Both grandma and mother looked shocked by my reaction. I gained enough control to explain my laughter. Looking at my mother, “You didn’t want to come here to tell grandma and she’s been there, done that and got the T-shirt.”

My grandmother had discovered she was pregnant after my grandfather went off to fight in WW1. They were not married and she chose not to tell him while he was overseas.

Her father kicked her out of the house. When my grandpa returned to Canada he found her with her newborn daughter in a home for unwed mothers. He insisted on them being married.

They hid the fact my aunt was older than their marriage by not celebrating their anniversary. It just wasn’t talked about. Asked how long they were married, they deflected.

Children grow up and eventually seek their own answers. My aunt visited city hall to get a copy of their marriage certificate. The cat was out of the bag.

I remember my mother telling me the story as if it was some deep dark family secret. I remember shrugging it off, to me it wasn’t a big deal.

Grandma not only wasn’t upset about having a grandchild who was a single parent, she embraced her great-granddaughter with love. The two of them adored each other.

And, as you can tell, I adored grandma. She truly taught me, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

image by author

Shadowspub is a writer from Ontario, Canada. She writes on a variety of subjects as she pursues her passion for learning. She also writes on other platforms.

image by author

She created Prompt A Day to share with others. You can subscribe to Prompt A Day for a set of ideas in your inbox every day.


About the Creator


ShadowsPub is a Canadian writer who writes on a variety of subjects as she explores her way through the world. She enjoys creating books like journals, notebooks, coloring books etc where she can use her creative skills.

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