Wednesday, February 24, 2010

grandma's hands*

*One of my favourite songs, especially the live version - Grandma's Hands by Bill Withers - beautiful lyrics.

But actually this isn't about my Granny's hands, it's about her feet. And how they've miraculously appeared at the end of my legs.
In my previous pregnancy I don't remember suffering from swollen feet and ankles at all. But then it was mid-winter by the time I got to this stage, Frieda was a smaller baby and actually, as she was 3 weeks early, I've now been pregnant for longer than I was with her.

This time round, in the stinking baking heat of February, I'm starting to think I may have elephantitis. For serious.
Thank the lord I took off my toe rings months ago, they'd've needed cutting off my tootsies by now!

I look down at my feet and I remember my Granny Molly.
She was a large lady, tall and as she got older, increasingly heavy. She had legs and ankles like sausages, encased in her tights, her feet bulging out the tops of her old lady shoes.
She died when I was 18 (in fact, she died on my 19th birthday but that's another story), so most of my memories of her are from childhood. She would sit ensconced in a comfy chair, either in her book-fat study or on the patio, and us grandkids would pull up on of the many footstools (not the one bearing her gin & tonic) or poofs which were always scattered around her house and listen to her stories of Cape Town when she was a girl. She was a wonderful story-teller. And sitting listening to her provided ample opportunity to study those fascinating feet.
Granny Molly started losing her eyesight in her last few years. When arriving at her house we had to identify ourselves to her, 'Hello Granny, it's Molly Jean' (my father's family always use my second name too, to avoid confusion, a habit most of them have kept up even though my Gran's been gone for 15 odd years. I kind of like it that they do.). She became unable to do things like care for her feet herself, and I always found it incredibly touching that my Grandfather would cut and paint her toenails for her.

She also became less and less concerned with social niceties, another trait I had much admiration for. As she got bigger, she'd sometimes sit with her legs splayed, her chubby feet flopped on the floor like two hams. Occasionally one (especially a little one, seated on one of those poofs) could see too far up her skirt - an area always demurely concealed in tights and beige underwear - but my Grandfather would reprimand her: 'Close your legs Molly!' and she'd respond, 'Oh John, they're only family.'
The exchange became a bit of a family joke.

But I do her a disservice to only talk about her last few years. She was an incredible woman. She'd have been an architect had she lived in another time, she designed many houses for her family and others, and was an invaluable resource to my Grandfather's building business, albeit an officially unacknowledged one.
She hosted the most outrageous parties, always involving some kind of entertainment - a play that she'd written or a concert of songs - all of which her guests were expected to participate in.
On arrival they'd be presented with a stiff drink and the part of the programme they were responsible for and shown to the guest bedrooms where basic costumes were laid out. Each part written and costumed specifically with that person in mind. Many drinks later the entertainment would begin, and would be talked and laughed about for months afterwards.
Family Christmas's were similarly curated, for many years a full Nativity play was presented, adults and children participating, hosts of cousins meant always having enough shepards and angels. And as the family grew, for years there was always a new baby to play Jesus.
Father Christmas always made an appearance, often dramatically descending from the roof or down a tree, one year even arriving in a helicopter (a wonderful machine constructed, by my Gran, from cardboard and filled with gifts, rolled out from behind some bushes with accompanying helicopter backing track piped over the stereo).
If it all sounds fantastical and totally OTT that's because it was. She was that kind of lady.

I've always been very proud to have her name, and these days as I sit with my legs inelegantly splayed round my big tummy, looking down at my swollen porkie feet, I'm reminded of her and happy to find this bit of family nostalgia in what would otherwise just be a gross and uncomfortable state of being.
And pleased to be remembering the wonderful woman she was as I prepare to raise another girl, another woman with a bit of Granny Molly in her.

1 comment:

MissBuckle said...

Gorgeous as always, Molly. And what a beautiful woman to be reminded of.

My feet were humungous by the end of my pregnancy with Little Man.