I was born on my grandmother's birthday, in the second bedroom of her small terrace house, and it wasn't long before everyone discovered that I'd inherited my grandmother's distinctive red hair. I wonder if my mother's mother looked down at her tiny look-alike, and regarded her first born grandchild as a birthday gift.

My grandmother's birthday was two days ago, and so was mine. Last week my family wanted to know what gifts their birthday girl desired. I thought and thought but couldn’t come up with anything to put on my wish list.

“You can’t have a birthday without presents!” my children complained. “Mum! You’re not making it very easy for us.”

“I’m sure you’ll think of something to give me,” I answered.

I used to send my grandmother a special gift on our birthday, but I don't do that any more. She died a few years ago, just before her 93rd birthday.

I was speaking with my mother on the phone last night. “It was Nannie’s 100th birthday this year,” she said. I was surprised. How could I have forgotten such an important date? I see it every day. I have an embroidery in our living room that I stitched for my grandmother’s 90th birthday. It says:

30 April 1913
Charlotte Rosie 

My mother's sister took a huge bunch of flowers and a ‘Happy 100th Birthday’ helium balloon to the cemetery on our special day. I like that. It made me smile. That’s the kind of thing I would do.

Having the special connection of our birthdays and red hair, I always felt close to my grandmother. I thought I knew her very well. I enjoyed spending time with her, talking (very loudly because she was hard of hearing) while we shopped, (my grandmother could outshop anyone) or while we sat sipping coffee around the kitchen table. Whenever we parted or met up, she would hug me fiercely and smack big kisses on my cheek. But only a few years ago, I realised there is so much about my grandmother I don't know.

Just after Thomas died, my grandmother suddenly revealed she gave birth to a baby that died a few weeks later, from injuries sustained when she fell down the stairs in late pregnancy. I asked my mother why she’d never told me about the baby, and my mother replied that the day I found out about my aunt was the same day she found out she had an extra sister. My grandmother had kept her sorrow hidden inside her for over 50 years. I wonder what else she never shared.

When we are young the world revolves around our own lives. It’s only been in recent years I have looked beyond myself and wondered about my grandmother. She wasn’t just my Nannie. She was a person in her own right with her own life that didn't always include me. When she was with us and I had the opportunity, I never thought to look beyond the surface. Would my grandmother have shared her stories with me? What could she have taught me?

This year I didn’t need to choose a gift for my grandmother, but my family still had to think of something to give me. Finally I said, "Perfume! I haven't had any of that for years."

So my children wrote ‘perfume’ on my birthday wish list, and they and my husband Andy went shopping.

Last Tuesday I tore off the wrappings from around my birthday presents and I discovered a glass bottle of Nantucket Briar perfume and matching body lotion. I sprayed a little on my wrist and sniffed. “It’s beautiful!” I exclaimed. “I love it. I'm going to wear it all the time.” It's going to become my scent.

Andy let out a sigh of relief. "So I did okay?" he asked. I nodded, and we both smiled.

“You should have seen us in the perfume shop,” said Imogen. “We sprayed so many different scents onto our hands, it got very confusing. Then Dad sprayed his shirt by accident.” She grinned. “He was worried you’d smell it on him when he got home.”

So I was a very happy birthday girl receiving exactly what was on my wish list. But there’s something else on that list, something I didn’t write down:

I wish that one day I will meet my grandmother again and have the opportunity to share her stories.

My sister once said, “Nannie really loved you, you know. She always looked out for you.”

I think I took that love and attention for granted. Did my grandmother ever know that I really loved her too?

Happy 100th Birthday, Nannie. I love you.

Post a Comment

  1. Yes, she did love you very much, Sue:-) The best compliment I got from her was when I was in my twenties. She was really lovely - she said how well I'd turned out and how she had never thought it would happen!! I decided to be pleased!

    She was very funny - do you remember? I think she had a hard life but she was still able to have a laugh.

    I love the redstitch. I must take some photos of the ones you and Immy made me.

    Great memories, Sue:-) xxx

    1. Vicky,

      Nannie never minced her words. She was very direct. I can just imagine her telling you how she thought you'd turned out better than expected! Some people might have been offended at her words. I don't think she meant to offend though. It was just her way.

      Yes, Nannie liked to joke about. I remember how she and Andy used to stir each other up in a fun way.

      I was glad when Mum brought Nannie's redstitch home for me after she sorted out all her affairs. It's a nice memory. I like redstitch embroideries. I have a few the girls stitched for me, but I have given most of mine away.

      It's nice to talk over memories, isn't it?

  2. Awww, I love this, Sue!

    Love esp the part abt keeping the sorrow hidden and realizing that your G'ma was a person who had a history and a life that didn't inc you! Something that we don't often think of abt our parents and G'parents!
    I never met any of my 4 grandparents....heard many stories but not enough. Now my parents are gone too....
    Love this story and the ending esp....Happy Belated Birthday!!


    1. Chris,

      I'm sorry you don't have your extended family with you any more. Maybe you are sharing your husband's parents and grandparents?

      I was so surprised when my grandmother told me about her baby. So was my mother. I think she must have told me to make a connection and help me. But so many untold tales.

      Thank you for the birthday greetings! I have been very blessed with wishes.

      God bless and sending you love too!

  3. Nan's are great aren't they. I was blessed with three!

    How cool is that you were born on her birthday and had the same coloured hair!

    1. Lisa,

      You are very blessed indeed! I'm looking forward to becoming a grandparent. When that happens I shall have to ask Nancy for some grandmotherly tips!

      With prayers for you and your brother. God bless!

  4. How beautiful, Sue. After a long busy day of solid play with my oldest grandchild yesterday, I am identifying from both sides. 'Bunny' knows me only as her GaGa, but now that she's going on 7 (EEEK), she does sometimes show an interest in that 'other' me she's heard about, the little girl wearing 'crinolines' and reading Nancy Drew. Yet most of my life (which was all terribly interesting of course) she and my other grands would find sooooooo boring. Or unbelievable. Their GaGa grew up being called "Skinnybones" and "Beanpole" and tried constantly to gain weight?! "Im pos si ble!"

    I had one of my children on my husband's mother's birthday. I told her that not many daughters in law would go to THAT much trouble to provide a present. She would have been worth it - she (now deceased) was a marvelous person.

    Sue, I LOVE the embroidery! What a beautiful treasure.

    1. Nancy Beanpole,

      You wore crinolines? Ha Ha That is so funny! I bet there weren't even any cars when you were a girl. Was there electricity? Yes, grandparents must seem very old to little children. Not saying you're old, mind you!

      I have found my children love hearing stories of my childhood. Just recently my mother shared a few of her own stories with the girls. They loved them! Have you thought about writing your own family history? Perhaps you've already started. You have to get those 'boring' and 'unbelievable' stories down on paper!

      I can see you are a very considerate and marvellous daughter-in-law!

      The embroidery? I had this big idea I would embroider something special for every member of the family. I had another idea too. My grandmother used to crochet Afghans. I have one she made. I wanted to make all my children their own blanket. But somewhere along the line, I got distracted from these projects and returned to writing. Oh well, my family will have to inherit my words and not my handicrafts.

  5. Surely your grandmother considered you a birthday gift, and something special. One of my friends have 6 children, and the biggest wished for a little brother for a birthday gift - which he got! Those two have a special relationship. Your grandma sounds like a spunky lady, and I fully understand your wish to know her better. We never get close to our grandparents, as we're born too late in their life. I wonder if this was different when mothers had babies earlier ...

    TIllykke med dig og mormor.

    I admire your grasp of Danish.

    1. Uglemor,

      There's nothing nicer than getting people as birthday gifts, whether they are siblings, children or grandchildren. It seems to happen quite a lot.

      "a spunky lady"... I think that's a wonderful description of my grandmother! I'm sure Vicky would agree.

      "TIllykke med dig og mormor".... Tak Ugelmor!

      I really will have to make an effort to learn Danish. You wouldn't like to post a few simple lessons on your blog, would you?

      Gud velsigne dig

  6. Sue-
    You truly amaze me! You made it through the entire English alphabet- never missing a day in April. And still you keep writing- and not silly little meaningless blogs but long well-thought-out ones with lots of meaning. Where do you get your self discipline? Where do you get your inspiration? I stand in awe of you!

    Oh- and I hope your birthday was awesome. I'm sure your grandmother is smiling down on you from heaven.

    God bless, Kari

    1. Kari,

      Thank you! The blogging challenge helped me get into a good pattern of writing. I actually tried to think of topics ahead of time, and then I let them simmer away in the back of my mind while I wrote the earlier ones. Writing the first drafts didn't take me very long. I didn't worry about getting the words right first go, but just got the stories written. Then because I wrote each story a couple of days before it was needed, I kept returning to the draft at odd moments to polish it up.

      I guess I have much more free time than you, and it's been holiday season here too, so I've had it very easy. I also didn't do much else this last month apart form writing! I've neglected my reading and my knitting terribly. Maybe I'll get back to them after today, when I've posted the last story to go with the last of Uglemor's Danish letters.

      I'm also guessing that while I have been writing post after post, you've actually made good progress on other writing projects such as your novel. And did you say you were writing a short story for a competition? How's that going?

      I did have an awesome birthday, thank you!

      God bless!

  7. What a beautiful story, Sue! Same birthday, same red hair - she must have loved that! I was touched that she told you about her own loss after all those years when Thomas died. She knew the pain of losing a baby too. You must miss her a lot.

    Happy Birthday!!

    1. Mary,

      I guess my grandmother did love us sharing a birthday and red hair, because she always treated me special. I liked it too!

      Yes, I was so touched that my grandmother shared her own grief story with me. Maybe she was reliving her own experience and finally chose to tell me about it in order to make me feel less alone.

      Thank you for your birthday greetings!

      You haven't been around as much as usual recently. I hope you're not overbusy. It's always lovely to catch up with you here and on your own blog. I love those trees!

  8. Sue, I just love the connections w have with our grandparents. I was particularly close to my nanna too. Brid is very similar to her.
    You have written a very touching and thought provoking story. Thanks for sharing.
    And HAPPY BIRTHDAY. God Bless you,

    1. Leanne,

      It's so lovely when we can see other people in our children. I am sure Sophie takes after Andy's dad as she is darker than the other kids. Was your Nanna a red head too?

      Thank you for reading my story, and thank you for your birthday greetings! I hope you and Brid had wonderful birthdays too.

      God bless!

    2. Hi Sue,
      Yes my Nanna was a redhead, freckles and pale skin like Brid. the minute she was born, I knew she was a redhead...But it suits her so well.At times they even have the same mannerisms. Nanna died long before Brid was born, and the other children only know stories of her..Funny isn't it..
      God Bless,

    3. Leanne,

      Brid and your Nanna sound very much like me and my Nannie! My Nannie died when Gemma-Rose was a baby. Only the older kids would remember her. But we can tell stories and keep the memory of our grandparents alive, can't we?

      God bless!


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