Grandparents can have a huge impact on their grandchildren as they grow up. I was fortunate in that I also had a set of Great-Grandparents. As I look back on my childhood, I can see that I inherited many things from each of my grandparents. I’ve even paid tribute to my grandmothers in the middle names I gave to my daughter. I called her Katherine after my father’s Mum and Mariella after my Mother’s Mum, who was called Marie.
My Mum’s Mum, we called Big Maz as a term of endearment. I think it was my brother who came up with the name. Big Maz was not one for cuddles or affection, but she showed her love through her cooking and in looking after people. She made the best chips and gravy. Big Maz was always immaculately dressed and she loved to have her hair done every week. Her nails were always painted, and she loved jewellery.
I think that I inherited this from her. My Grandma’s home was immaculate, and it always smelt of rose and magnolia perfume. When I go into Marks and Spencer’s I can still smell her in their talcum powder. In my garden I have a large green plastic pot that used to belong to her and I now grow ivy out of it. I spent many happy times with Big Maz, sat in her front room gossiping. She had eight grandchildren and although I used to believe that I was her favourite, she always treated us with the same amount of money at Christmas and birthdays. She always had a photo of me on her mantlepiece from when I was at primary school and when she died, I kept it as a reminder of all the times we had spent gossiping.
My Great Grandparents lived in an immaculate council house in Aspley, Nottingham. My Great-Grandma Flo, was an amazing baker. No one made such delicious jam tarts. Her stuffing was a family recipe that she passed onto the next generation. She’d bake it in a baking tray and then serve it sliced with a Sunday Roast. She loved telling everyone that she was far too old to be baking but she did it because everyone loved her food so much. My Great-Grandad Jackson was a very quiet and patient man. He taught my brother and I to play chess. Now when I teach other children to play the game, I feel that I am passing on his legacy.
My Dad’s parents lived in Radford which was quite a rough area of Nottingham. They were very different to my other grandparents as their house always smelt of cigarette smoke. My Grandma Straw was slightly embarrassed by her lack of education but as she grew older, she had started to self-educate and she loved to read books on royal history. My Grandma Straw was more like me than anyone. She worried a great deal and she had a lot of fears such as the dentist, cars and heights. My Grandma’s favourite place was Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and I’ve got to admit that this is one of my favourite places to visit as well. She’d talk to my brother and I about history and ask us about school a lot. I used to love going to their house as they always had sterilised milk in their tea which made it creamier. My Grandma was one of the first people to rent a VHS video recorder. She also would hire the videos from a shop called, ‘Bubbly’s Videos’. Occasionally she’d get hold of pirate videos. The quality was so bad that you could hear the rustling of sweet wrappers and see people walking in front of the cinema screen. I remember seeing ET before it even came out in the UK cinemas.
I had much longer holidays at my Senior school than my brother. So, I would often spend these days at my Grandma’s house. She loved horror films and she would always get a horror video in especially for my visits. She’d buy us some cream cakes to eat during the film. Then she’d close the front room curtains and we would sit and watch the horror film. Most were X-rated and I was only about eleven. I remember seeing some of the best eighties horror films there such as Carrie, The Omen and The Exorcist. I’d go home, and my Mum would ask me what I had done.
“Oh, I saw this film with Grandma, in which this giant hairy beast attacked a young couple who were camping in a van and ripped them to shreds.”
“As if your Grandma would do that!” My Mum would reply. Even now if some old horror film comes on from the seventies or eighties, it triggers a memory and I’ll remember watching it with Kitty in her front room with a mug of tea and a cream cake.
My Grandma Straw died at the very young age of sixty-two when I was about sixteen. It was my first experience of death. It was a tragic end for her.
My Grandad Straw was a very quiet man whilst my Grandma was alive. Her death meant that he could no longer stay in the background and in the eight years that he lived after her death, I really got to know him better. He was a kind and gentle man and he loved cricket, especially the Ashes. We’d talk about all sorts of things. His experience of the Second World War and some of the places he was stationed in. I remember him telling me that when Bing Crosby had first become popular, his father had found the music shocking and outrageous. I’d go around to his house and make him a meat and potato pie and an apple pie. I remember the time I confused the salt and sugar canisters and he ended up with a salty sweet and a sweet savoury!
When I look back now on the influence my Grandparents had on me, I always see my time with them with affection. Unlike parents, grandparents are there to spoil children and see everything they do as amazing. I never once doubted that my Grandparents weren’t proud of me. I’m so pleased now that my children have special relationships with some of their grandparents. As more and more people opt to have children later in life. then it is a shame that few children get to know their grandparents as well as I did. For me, knowing my grandparents was an important way of knowing where I came from and who I was. My Grandparents have all died now but their memory lives on in the stories I pass onto my children and more than anything else, I think that it’s vital for them to know their family history and the generations who were here before.