I was lucky enough to know all of my Grandparents. Two sets of very special people that doted on me as their first grandchild. I have lost three out of four of my grandparents, but they all have the softest place in my heart. I can still vividly remember each one of them.
I can picture my Mom’s Dad, my Grandpa, wearing a sunshine yellow jersey, leaning over me and teasing me, while having his arms outstretched waiting for a hug. I remember him eating my peas when my Gran left the room and I remember eating spoonfuls of peanut butter and honey while sitting on his lap. I can still feel the soft linen of the duvet cover when I crawled into bed with my Grandma, my Dad’s Mom. The smell of roses and lavender still remind me of her. And drinking tea out of a cup and saucer. She was the classiest woman I have ever known, and every time I watch a Maggie Smith movie, I think of her. I can still picture my Pops, my Dad’s dad, standing tall in his racing gear, in the same hat that he would always wear to the stables. I remember trying on his jockey’s colours with my cousin and I can still see him walking around talking to his horses. My Mom’s mom, my Gran, is my only grandparent still with us. And while I was also blessed to have met her mother, my Great Grandmother, or Ouma as she was fondly known, I sadly don’t have many memories of her.
And now I am a Mama to a baby girl. To a girl surrounded by Grandparents and Great Grandparents who love and adore her. I watch my Gran singing the same lullaby to my daughter that she used to sing to me, and I am in awe at how time moves on and yet traditions fuse so tightly within a family. There is something so special about meeting the generations that have gone before you. The family that paved the way for your very own existence. Their stories of a time gone by have always fascinated me, hearing about what it was like before TV, or stories from the War. I have always loved paging through old photo albums, my grandparents etched into time in black and white or sepia photographs, laughing on the beach or standing in their white-fenced gardens surrounded by their children. And now I think about my own daughter paging through photo albums, seeing pictures of my parents, and I wonder if she will hold the same sentimental value to them that I do.
My sentimental nature comes from my Gran. She is a poet and has scrapbooks for almost every big event that has ever happened to her. She keeps photo albums and letters, newspaper cuttings and ticket stubs. I am exactly like her, attaching any bit of sentimental value that I can to absolutely anything, and documenting everything that happens with photographs (only now instead of a photo album or scrapbook, I use this blog, Facebook and Instagram ). As Bella’s Great Grandmother, my Gran wanted to do something special for her Great Grand-daughter, and so from the moment Bella was born, my Gran has been documenting her life in poems. I must have a hundred hand-written poems by now, detailing every moment of my baby’s life, from the first solid food she ate, to each of her birthday parties, to her potty training and more. It is ALL there, written by my Gran in rhyming couplets on old-school writing paper. Those poems are going to be the one thing that I would save in the event of a fire in my house. They tell the story of not only my daughter’s life, but of my Gran’s dedication and love for my baby girl. They are priceless and one of my most treasured possessions. I cannot wait for Bella to start to understand what those words mean, when I can open up a scrapbook filled with her Gran’s poems and read to her stories about herself. I can’t begin to explain how special that is going to be!
My Gran recently turned 85, and I felt like I had a full-circle moment on one of my own childhood memories. Ever since I can remember, there has been a photo in my Gran’s house of the four generations – my Ouma, my Gran, my Mom and me – taken in about 1987. It used to fascinate me as a child, and I remember tracing my small fingers over each woman’s face and wondering when I would grow up to be a Mama. It was a surreal moment when we recently ‘recreated’ the photo for my Gran’s birthday. I organised a photo-shoot with my Gran, my Mom, myself and Bella, in the same garden that the original photo had been taken 27 years ago.
I now look at the new photo of our four generations and no longer wonder when I’ll grow up, but find myself wondering where the time has gone. I blinked and became the Mama with a daughter smiling back at me. It makes me want to hold onto her so tightly; afraid to blink again and suddenly she will be all grown up.
I want to embrace every moment, linger in it and breathe it all in. I want to take a million photos of her to remember what she looks like at every stage, to remind myself when she is all grown up about the way she wrinkles her nose at me in the bath or opens her eyes wide when she is trying to be taken seriously. I want to video her to record the sound of her childish laughter, to remember her baby voice before she becomes a woman.
I want to teach her to immerse herself in the history and stories from her Grandparents, to hug them tightly, and to take in all the memories of them that she can. I want to be as sentimental as possible, and one day to be able to show my grandchildren photos and letters and newspaper cuttings; and to tell them stories of a time gone by, of this time, of our ‘now’.
*Photos courtesy of photographer Leigh Benson http://leighbensonphotography.daportfolio.com/