Nana’s Pearls of Wisdom
So, Nana would tell me the day’s news, informing me of the neighbour’s gossip ‘Margaret’s son got a lovely new car, it’s a vulva’ or that ‘Mrs. Murphy’s daughter got a job in the new record shop in town, it’s called HIV’, I was never sure whether she meant to be humorous but these interactions were plentiful. In my youth, Nana would teach me pearls of wisdom standing in her kitchen teaching me to bake; rolling, dicing, sieving and preparing I would listen to all she had to say. The smells of pastry, preserve, cinnamon; seasonal fruits and savoury treats would greet me at the door when I would visit her warm inviting and comfortable home. Alike her in personality, she used to say to my father ‘God is worried she would rewrite the Ten Commandments and the devil is afraid of the competition’ she would laugh and shrug her shoulders but this was Nana’s way.
As we stood in the kitchen, she would proffer her wisdom with confidence and certainty. With sincerity she would repeat her mantra ‘you know my darling granddaughter men are indeed after one thing, the very same as women, to be happy, take no notice of what anyone else says’. She would speak to me of my education and having worked until marriage she was adamant that every woman should carry her own weight in a marriage ‘Always bring something to the party’ she would say as I would be required to recite poetry, questioned on my Latin studies and endlessly maths always maths. A woman of her time would be forgiven docility but Nana knew nothing of the kind. In mid-teens she would say ‘No girl should go outside her front door without a pill on her tongue’ at the time I did wonder why she was so fretful that I would get a headache but I soon understood that contraception, without saying the word, was her concern. Pregnancy was her gravest apprehension for me and her worries would be based on the events of the day. Nana would speak of rumours of ‘fallen women’ with empathy and worry about their treatment, ridiculing anyone that frowned upon them. ‘The nuns, in that fine school of yours’ she would say ‘will tell you it takes three to make a baby; a man, a woman and God, God has nothing to do with it of it my darling granddaughter’ and my impromptu sex education didn’t really come better than ‘many a fine girl got pregnant up against a wall that never slept with a man’.
Nana’s wisdom transcended relationships but she would refer to reputation, ‘if you have the name of getting up early you can stay in bed all day’. Growing older Nana was forgetful and she would say ‘when you always tell the truth you need to remember only that which is thought from a book’ and my Nana was right. Nana was a beautiful looking woman, small in stature with twinkly eyes and she loved to laugh out loud, her wisdom was bountiful, her convictions intense and her adoration for me unconditional, she aged gracefully and would say ‘wrinkles etched on the skin will cause you no pain but wrinkles written on the heart will cause you nothing else’.
I now bake with my own daughter, often, I teach her like Nana thought me, cutting, peeling, dicing, chopping and listening, most importantly listening, for I have so much to teach her, and baking together with her stood on a stool allows me to pay forward the gifts that I received in abundance; humour, love and pearls of wisdom. I will make this all about my daughter just as Nana made it about me….all me.