Ode to Joyce
I remember the way her hair smelled of soap, how she kept little mesh bags of lavender in her clothes draws. I remember rhubarb growing in her garden, dipping it in a cup of sugar and biting into the tough, crunchy sweet and sourness. She was very tactile, she loved me to give her a head massage. After my mother, she was my second favorite person in the world.
She would take my sister and I upstairs and give us spending money in secret. She was always there for us. She has been gone for about 13 years now, but I still remember her landline number. From uni I would call home, then call nan and grandad. She was a big part of my life, a safe and loving presence.
Once my grandad retired, when I was around 10 they served in the Salvation Army. They played in the Christmas band in the town centre, ran a well attended soup kitchen in the city centre, attended the services on Sunday, my granddad was the treasurer. Nan loved to go and visit the ill people in hospital, the ones who didn’t have any visitors, she had wanted to be a nurse but didn’t have the opportunity growing up. I like to think she got to do the best part of nursing in her retirement without the yucky bits.
I was lucky to have good mothering in my family. To have it role modelled. Of course there were sometimes fights, disagreements and frustrations, but under that was a strong sense of love and connectedness. Nan was a very loving mother and grandmother, and I am so grateful for her presence in my life. I think it is her influence that led me to be in service roles in my adult life, to have a desire to help other people. It is powerful for children to see adults helping one another, not just across the road, but really taking time out of life to help other people.
It can be harder to do this as parents juggling work, family, gym, friends, hobbies etc. Maybe it is easier in retirement when there are less demands on time.
I am still connected to her because she is in me. I know what she would say in certain situations, in her Northampton accent. She was always building us up, looking at our school work and telling how wonderful it was. She would say to my mum “oh, they don’t need to go to school today do they?” on a school day, and sometimes mum would let us stay home when we were well. It was a sneaky day off. I do that with my kids now, sometimes declaring that school cannot have them today! It is sneaky day off. Ode to Joyce.
So, who are the women in your life who have shaped you as a woman? They may never be known by the world, but they touched you deeply. I’d love to hear who yours was…