My Granny is a grand 90 years old tomorrow. To celebrate this fact my family had a gathering at her house yesterday and it pushed me to finally write a blog about her, a woman I hold incredibly dearly in my heart.
She is now losing her short term memory, she is, of course, aged, slowing down but there is not a single slice of her spark missing. She often tells me stories about her life, recalling with impeccable detail things that happened years ago and no matter how many times I might hear the same story it will always fill me with wonder, I could, can and do listen to her for hours on end. She has lived a life that not many could compare to.
My Grandmother was born in 1920 in New York, to first generation German migrants. She lived through the Great Depression and served in the American Navy during the Second World War. She did things that were just not done in her time and often giggles as she recalls her mother frequently saying, "Dorothy whatever will you do next?". She trained as a professional ice skater, toured all over the USA and Europe as "Lady Rebecca" in Holiday on Ice, which coined her the nickname "Becky" which she still is called today. Following the war she went with her GI Biller Rights and studied in Paris, lived in the South of France, married once, divorced. Shared an apartment in Paris with a man who worked for a fashion magazine, has had drawings of her as a model in fashion magazines, went to modelling school. Met my Grandpa, a Navy Officer, whilst visiting friends in England and whimsically tells the story of how it really was love at first sight. After marrying my Grandpa they lived out in India on a tea plantation with my uncle and aunt before returning to England shortly before my father was born... and these are to name but a few things. She still tells me she opens her curtains of her sleepy little village on the outskirts of Preston and says, "How on earth did I end up here?". We have all said to her for years that she should've written her life story, sadly I think it's a little bit late for her to be able to do that now but it's been crossing my mind more and more these days that maybe I should do it for her. Her stories are imprinted on my heart and I'd love to share with the world the wisdom of this incredible woman and her stories that would out shine any fictitious piece.
She always was until very recently impeccably dressed. We used to share cups of tea on a Sunday afternoon both flicking enthusiastically through the Sunday Times Style supplement. She has the largest collection of berets of anybody I've ever met, all with matching scarves. She delights in my dressing and I love hearing her recounting various garments over the years and showing me beautiful black and white photographs of her in her youth. "Quite the diva" as my Aunt commented on Saturday and then looked pointedly at me. This "passion for fashion" is inherited it seems. It was she who pushed me to keep modelling and delving into a fashion career. Over the years she has given me many of her garments and pieces of jewellery - all of which I wear frequently and often delighted in showing me off to her tea guests before recounting another of her stories from her youth. A far cry from a "typical" Grandmother figure and she frequently protests at my giggles at her crackers comments, "but you wouldn't want a boring Granny would you?" ... to which I always respond telling her I wouldn't swap her for the whole world (and I mean it even more each time I say it).
My Granny and I hold a special bond, I lived with her at a young age and again as for a year and a half at 19, though I know she loves each and everyone of us equally, the extra time we have spent together has given us something, there is an underlying understand of the other and a very deep affection. She has had a massive influence in my life and I think out of all of my relations she and I have a very unique relationship - we share a spirit, a gumption for life, an attitude to go out and grab absolutely everything. It is hugely attributable to her that I look at the world as a mirage of riches, a kingdom of magic, a plethora of possibilities. I feel deeply honoured when she tells me that I remind her of a young version of herself - we live an awful lot through each others eyes.
It was incredibly moving that upon my Dad making a toast to her yesterday that she sipped her champagne with her shaky hand, she took a deep breath and made a speech. Words which I've had her say pragmatically my whole life, "I'd say to anyone, that in life you have to just go out and do things. See and find opportunity then do it. I have lived my life and I have lived it well. I don't regret anything- you will doubtless make mistakes, make wrong choices but I think it's far better to do that than to never have experienced at all. I think there can't be anything worse than getting to being old and sitting back saying I wish I'd done that... It's far worse to regret the things you haven't done than those you have. Go out and seize every opportunity because life is for living".
I can take my Granny's words from this day but more importantly I carry her soul with me, her spirit lives in my genes and I would be very, very content in my life if I live to be just even half the woman she is.