By Amanda Morrall (email)
Last week, I lost a very special person, my grandmother. Margaret Amelia was an amazing woman. When my mother broke her femur on a ski accident when I was six months old, my granny adopted me for six months. Apparently, she didn't want to give me back. As a keepsake, she held on to my dummy and furnished it with a ballet pink satin ribbon which she used to dangle in front of me on my infrequent visits in adulthood as a reminder of our early years together. It was the start of a beautiful relationship.
Here's five things my grandmother taught me that seem fitting to share on love day. See also my Valentine's Day column here on economical gifting.
1) Kitchen cures
Granny made the most delicious mouthwatering homemade vegetable soup. On the epic 16-hour drive to her place in the country my siblings and I would fantasise about it. I don't think I've ever tasted soup as good as Granny's. It could cure pretty much any condition; a scraped knee, hurt feelings and the blues. When I was back at Granny's country house at age 14 stricken with mono and 100 pounds soaking wet, the soup (and good Granny) restored me to good health. I may never be able to replicate this miracle remedy but I reckon there's a lot to be said for kitchen cures as an antidote to consumerism.
2) Emergency money
As well as being a fabulous cook, my grandmother was an antique dealer. She ran her own shop filled with the most beautiful sterling silver pieces, furniture, Cloisonne vases and such. One of her most cherished items, now in my possession, is a palm-sized silver heart-shaped locket. Inside, it has three little spring-fitted slots for storing coins; "emergency money,'' Gran used to call it. Like most people of her generation, granny was a good saver. She watched her money closely. Her caution allowed her to be generous. On birthdays and at Christmas, Granny's cards always came with a crisp bundle of notes of a not insignificant amount. Bless her.
Having lived through the depression as a child, Granny learned to live with scarcity. Having eight brothers and sisters also did the trick. Despite the hardships wrought by the Global Financial Crisis and recessions, I don't think most of us have a clue what scarcity really involves. On my last visit with granny, as she was showing me this and that, I saw a drawer full of neatly folder paper and wrappings that she'd recycled from previous gifts. She'd even salvaged a floral design cardboard square from a tissue box to decorate a subsequent gift. Granny was big on presentation and as a result her presents always looked professional. I love the fact that she could pull this off making due with what she had around the house and had thoughtfully stored away rather than dumped on the footpath like we have come to do on Boxing Day.
4) Waste not want not
Another clear memory of I have of my grandmother, and my late grandfather, is that they also made excellent use of what they had. I remember trips to the shed and looking up at a wall full of preserves; jams, jellies pickles. I also remember their freezer being stocked with raspberries and blackberries along with an abundance of other veggies for year-long use. Sadly, I can only boast of a tomato plant that performed wonders this summer despite the shortage of sun and neglect and a few pumpkins. I doubt I'll ever be a proficient enough gardener to get to the preserve stage but never say never.
5) Look your best
Even into her 90s, Margaret always endeavoured to look her best. She'd crack out the curlers even for a visit from her grand daughters, put on a dash of mascara and lipstick. When I blew through the door with my hair in knots and yesterday mascara's smudged like Tammy Faye Baker, she put me to shame.
Luckily my well-coiffed, beautiful sister would make up for my slovenliness. Margaret was a classy, multi-talented woman and a kind old soul. I may never be able to live up to her high standards, but granny set a fine example. Do your best, look your best and love with all your heart. Happy Valentine's Day Granny. x