She always carried me. When I was a baby, she carried me. She would sit me on the back step or the front step so I could watch the world go by. She brought me to the library and got me my own library card when I was a toddler and carried my books home. She carried me on the back of her bike all over the city. When I couldn’t walk the last few steps crossing the field in front of her house, even though she would be tired too, she would pick me up and carry me the rest of the way.
She carried our coats and bags when we went out on days out. The Rainbow Rapids in Dun Laoghaire , up and down the Dart route, ice skating , roller skating, places she would have had little interest in . She didn’t drive, swim or skate. She didn’t do any of these things for herself, she did them for us. Ice creams. New shoes every few months. Books. Holidays. Musicals. In the 80s when people didn’t always have a lot, my sister and I had everything we ever needed. A pound to rent a video on the rainy summer holidays days when we couldn’t go on adventures. Meath Street bargains , the flower markets, fish sellers, Arnotts and sales of work. Always stopping somewhere so she could have tea and we would have cake . Fish and chips wrapped in paper. Fried bread and eggs. Her stew. My sister and I. Our hands in each of hers.
She always had time. When I was small we played shoe shops. She let me take every pair of shoes from the house as props and she got down on the floor and played with me, every Saturday night for years and years. Most people would let the child play and get on with what they wanted to do, not her. Tales of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, never leaving out a detail, never rushing the bed time story on Saturday nights. Every story ending with and they had a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake. My kids end all their stories now the same way. I love that.
When she couldn’t physically carry me, she still carried me. Her home was where everything was okay again. Teenage problems,you wouldn’t tell her details but you would sit down with her and the world would be right again . You could bring anyone in the door with you and they would be made welcome and fed within minutes of arriving. She was always there. Leaving cert results, graduation, the face I looked for among a sea of them when I walked down the aisle. The person I couldn’t wait to meet my babies. She even carried me when I had the youngest at home. She had her last baby at home too, I thought of her when I realised I was going to too, it helped.
I have my lifetime of memories of her. Her stories, her laugh, the heart, her hands, her cups of tea, her songs and sayings. Her face when my sister fell into the duck pond in Stephens Green in the 80s. Sitting at the sea front in Bray with her sun tanned face. Sitting on the top deck of the bus up the front. Her face enthralled in the cinema. Her face when she put on her pressed powder. I was always taken aback by how beautiful her voice was when she sang the hymns during Mass. Her face when she was reading. Her face when she angered by something she read in the paper.Her hair clips and her clip on earrings. Her face etched in grief when she lost her soulmate. Her face when she was singing nursery rhymes to me. Her face when she was singing nursery rhymes to my babies. The strongest memory I have , is her face when I walked in. She was always happy to see me. I had that welcome over and over all of my life.
She carried me always. She minded me even when she couldn’t , she still did. She gave me my love of books. She showed me what a strong and happy marriage looks like. She always listened. She told me all of her stories. She made me love where we live. She held my hand my whole life. If I ever get to become a grandmother, I know exactly how to do that, my apprenticeship was 38 years long. I need to start writing down things though because I don’t want to forget.
Last Friday we carried her out of her funeral mass. The first time I carried her after she carried me my whole life. She slipped away so peacefully at home in the room she had slept in for almost 70 years, wrapped and surrounded in so much love. A life so very well lived and loved and a life that has left such an empty space. I got to hold her hand one last time and I got to tell her how much I loved her and to thank her. I should have thanked her more, all along the way though, there was so much to thank her for.
My Nana 1923- 2017.