Family Lines

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Tag: nana

Gifts not presents

Woman sitting in Fanas, Switzerland.

My big ugly coat I can’t find. I’m in Fanas, Switzerland here.

Christmas is on the horizon and for many of us, that means lots of cookies and eggnog and family time. My immediate family (and family-in-laws) don’t live close enough to us to hop over for some seasonal cheer but my husband and I consider our friends as extended family.

It’s a gift we have these people in our lives in Calgary. This week though — this cold, cold week — I’ve been thinking about other gifts that I’m grateful for: and not expensive presents.

It’s super-duper freezing outside and I walk everywhere (most everywhere). Somehow, I’ve lost two winter coats. Oh I know they’re packed in boxes but I’m not sure which boxes. I didn’t label them when I loaded them full of housewares and clothing and knickknacks in preparation for a move. Well, that move hasn’t happened yet but winter has. I did know where one special winter coat was put and dug it out.

The special coat was my Nana’s. It’s pink and pure virgin wool (so says the tag) and has a fur-lined hood. Nana lived in northwestern Ontario and it’s cold there. The coat must have worked because she used it for a long time and then handed it to me before I moved from Nova Scotia to the Northwest Territories (N.W.T.) about 10 years ago. I never used the vintage coat in the N.W.T. because I had a black, puffy parka that looked like a sleeping bag on steroids.

Now I can’t find that black coat nor another black parka that looks almost the same. I had to start using my Nana’s coat. I put it on today and walked downtown in the -33 (with wind-chill) weather. It worked! I was warm and cozy in the wool coat and I even got some compliments on it while I was shopping in the mall.

I never saw Nana again after she gave me the coat: she died soon after I went to the N.W.T. Her gift is finally being put to use 10 years later and I’m grateful for its warmth and the reminder of her as a flesh and blood person. She wasn’t always an old woman. She wasn’t always my Nana. She was young and had ideas and dreams and perhaps, in her coat, she lived some of them.

Cold Calgary: view from Nose Hill Park.

Cold Calgary: view from Nose Hill Park.

Another gift is the gift of nature in the city. Like I said and many of you know, it’s freaking cold. But have you seen how beautiful it is outside? The fog rolling off the Bow River in the morning turns everything around it silver. The fresh snow covering the brown leaves on the ground and ugly grey pavement convinces us that the streets are pretty and Christmas is just around the corner. At night, when the festive lights are turned on, they still can’t compete with the stars. The clear cold air only accentuates their brilliance, reminding me that I’m one small person on this large planet.

With the holidays comes goodwill. People hold doors open for me. They stop their vehicles to let me cross the street. They put down their mobiles to engage in conversation with me, a stranger. This is a great gift and I wish it continued all year long because this is an important gift: the gift of time. Taking a couple of seconds to be friendly doesn’t take much and you’ll never know how deeply your kindness was felt.

“A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world. Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!”

~Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Much ado about nothing

Family photo.

My sisters, me, my nephew and my nana. 2004.

There are so many things to write about but I sometimes get stuck thinking about what to write about and can’t come up with anything. Probably lots of people who are looking to record their corporate or personal stories are in the same boat. They don’t know where to start but given a prompt – their memories will be set in motion.

Writing prompts help get your tale on its way. It gives you a focus such as: what do you remember your grandmother saying? This opens up myriad of possibilities for many people and one particular story for me.

One time my nana, my mama’s mama, come to visit us in Nova Scotia from northern Ontario. My family had driven to Canning, a small Annapolis Valley town, to run an errand and we were parked on the side of the street. My mom went into a store leaving me and my middle sister in the back seat with my nana sitting in the passenger chair.

My sister and I were being bad. We were arguing and fighting and kicking the back of the seats. My Scottish nana turned around and said:

“If you don’t stop that I’m gonna hit you in the lugs!”

That stopped us. Dead. Not because of nana’s stern tone but because – what are lugs? (Her accent lugs turned into loogs.)

“What are loogs nana?” one of us asked.

“Loogs, you know, loogs.”

Legs? Is that what she meant? That made us laugh.

“Haha nana. You say legs funny.”

Not the right thing to say and she was furious and sputtered something else at us.

For years my sister and I have thought lugs were legs. Until one day we were watching Coronation Street, a British soap opera, and one of the characters mentioned his lugs – his ears.

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