I was blessed growing up to have two grandmothers. As well as two great grandmothers and a grandfather.
I have so many memories of years spent with my precious grandmothers, maybe it’s because I am turning 50, maybe it’s because I am now a grandmother myself, but the memories are visiting my consciousness more now than ever.
Their names were Evelyn and Leticia, but everybody called her Pat.
Evelyn was my mum’s mum, I called her Nanny. A true lady in every sense of the word and whenever I think of a lady, she instantly comes to mind. Always in a corset, suspenders and stockings, heels and a frock, she wore 4711 cologne and never left the house without her ‘face’ on. I never saw her wear pants and I remember telling her I would be wearing jeans until the day I died. She always said I could be an actress and would be like the next Sarah Bernhardt.
She smoked Alpine cigarettes, but always sitting down as that’s how a lady smokes. She had a tougher side too, she was an illegal SP bookmaker who had many people working for her, taking calls on the weekend in the office. I remember the many phones lined up across the two level desk, with at least 4 men taking calls at any one time. It was a sort of a secret, I guess but I didn’t realise that it was illegal as a child. I remember the old biscuit tin of money she always had aside to give to any policemen should they need any encouragement to look the other way.
She never drove, was fiercely independent and I loved her to bits. She brushed her hair 100 times every night before bed, used a moisturiser called Mercolized Face Wax which she “could count on one hand how many nights she went to bed without putting on” and took me to the city to buy my first jar when I turned 13. She loved to cook and I shared her passion, so we spent many hours making cakes, scones and other goodies. She also had a house keeper, Mrs Beach, who made the best rock buns, with the occasional juicy glace cherry inside. I have searched my whole life for a rock bun like Mrs Beach made, and am still yet to find one. Nanny drank “fire water”: a half scotch and soda every night, as she was making dinner and occasionally I would be allowed to sneak a tiny sip. In her mid 60s she went to swimming lessons and took herself on an around the world trip. What a woman.
Leticia or Pat, as she preferred to be called was my dad’s mum. I called her gra-gra and being the first grandchild the name I gave her stuck. She too never drove, but caught the bus and walked everywhere. Every morning she swam laps of the Shelly Beach ocean pool and she loved to watch the tennis. Evonne Goolagong was the reigning queen of tennis when I used to watch summer tennis with her. She watched the Mike Walsh show at 12:00 every day. She too always wore a dress.
She was a fabulous cook and I will never forget her butterfly cakes, chocolate mint slice and her condensed milk mayonnaise. She used to serve it in a little cut crystal pouring jug and it was perfect on a simple tomato, lettuce and beetroot salad, then to finish off, sopped up with fresh white bread and real butter. To this day it is my favourite and in our family it is always affectionately known as gra-gra mayonnaise and I am often asked to make it for christmas and other occasions, though I can never get it just like she used to.
Gra-Gra didn’t drink or smoke and went to church every single Sunday. Her unit was on the edge of Shelly Park and we spent many hours running around safely in the park out the front of her place swinging on the swings and playing on the wooden see-saw.
Gra-gra’s mother lived in the same block of units when I was young and we called her Gran. I have only faint memories of Gran but I do know she had a remote control for her TV, a cord that went from the TV to the control. Gran made Irish Stew which I didn’t like but I always enjoyed visiting her. I will never forget in the 70s when the shampoo called Milk Plus 6 by Revlon came out, and Gran said that she felt “they had run out of names”. When something on TV shocked her, she would pull her skirt up over her face.
I am so blessed to have had so many of these precious memories. I had such a wonderful childhood. I hope I can give my beautiful grandchildren some special memories too.
Thank you Nanny and Gra-Gra, I will love you forever and always.