As a little girl, my sister Angie and I would try and spend as much time as possible at our Nana and Granddad’s Devon St home in Brantford’s Henderson Survey.
Now that I am adult, and I look back to those beloved visits and I realize that not only did I have fun, but also I was taught so many valuable lessons.
My grandfather was the child of Hungarian immigrants, and my Nana was a war bride brought over to Canada after WW2 from England. While sitting around the table drinking tea with Angie and my Nana, my Granddad would be whipping up a frying pan filled with peppers and onions and eggs.
This was when the story telling would begin. My Nana was the best of storytellers. She would have my sister and I rolling on the floor with laughter hearing of all the hijinks that she and her friend Winnie would get into growing up. Every time I remove my nail polish I think of my Nana and Winnie scraping off their red nails before returning home to their strict parents after a wartime dance. When my Nana had told us her stories it was my Granddad’s time to share some of his childhood tales. He was a poor farm boy growing up so usually his memories made me feel a little sad; especially the one where he didn’t think Santa liked him. Although his tales weren’t as comical as my Nana’s, they often gave my sister and I an understanding of what it was like for him to grow up in a Brantford that we would never learn about in history books. I could probably fill a story book myself of all of the fun things that I did and was taught by my Grandparent’s. Everything in life that I have a simple appreciation for I know came from spending so much time with my Nana and Granddad.
Going to our Grandparents house was like a going to a castle. The decor was very opulent, ornate Indian carpets, cranberry crystal, and my Nana had a “powder bar” as she called it in the pink bedroom with the canopy bed. My sister and I would get to play dress up with all of our Nana’s costume jewelry, and her fancy nighties. When it was time to play outside, unlike other children we knew, we swam in a fountain amidst my Granddad’s beautiful gardens. Our Nana would put Palmolive dish soap in the water, and as my sister and I splashed around pretending to be Mermaids, the fountain would fill up with bubbles. I can still taste that Palmolive in my mouth.
When it was corn on the cob season, it was a time of celebration. It was never just that we had corn with dinner! The special ceramic corn dishes came out, and it was a feast out on the back veranda. My Grandparent’s good friends Ray and Myrna would come and visit from Cornwall, and Myrna would cook the corn. She would use milk, and it was the best corn ever. I inherited those special corn dishes when my Nana passed away. Of all lavish decor in that home, that is what I wanted. Those dishes served up so many wonderful memories. As an adult and starting my life out with a young family, remembering the stories of my Nana and Granddad pulling the back seat out of their car to use as a couch in their empty farmhouse kept me grounded. As a kid, I was in such awe hearing about outhouses and buying canned goods with no labels to save money. I felt that I had no right to complain as I used disposable diapers, and nuked the formula in the microwave. I would never know hardships like they did. I would draw on those stories to help me to be creative and frugal to set up my own little house for my family. It always made me proud when someone would compliment me on something I had decorated my home with, and it was from the Dollar Store.
I am thankful that my Nana taught me to use old buttons as coins for playing store, and that an empty Benson and Hedges tobacco tin could be used as a drum or even to store my Barbie clothes in. I am ever so appreciative that the best salad I would ever eat was lettuce grown in Granddad’s garden. I will never forget the simplicity of coloring on pages and pages of white paper that my Granddad brought home from his job at Screen Print. I remember with a huge grin learning the “Bird Dance” in my grandparent’s kitchen while wearing my Charlie Brown PJ’s. I will always remember the time that was spent around that kitchen table, talking and learning and listening and laughing. That is what made my childhood special.