Tea with my Dead Grandmother

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince


There’s very little I remember of my grandmother. I do recall when she would scratch her ear with a finger lodged in it how her ample arm fat would jiggle furiously. The sight of it is burned into my memory bank. She had a square face with plump cheeks, one that I now see creeping into my mirror. I’ve never forgotten her incredible tuna melts, which I have asked my mum to replicate in moments of need—the ultimate comfort food.

I don’t feel much affinity to my British roots, but to this day my sister and I still use some of my grandmother’s phrases and we’ve been know to break into a British accent in conversations—especially my sister. Although my mum claimed a distaste for her heritage and the accent, we were raised on many British-isms like, “I’ll lambaste you one” and “grab a root and growl” and little ditties such as: “This is the way we give babies away for a half a pound of tea, a half a pound of tea …” whilst being hoisted over mum’s shoulder and carried about the house.

Apparently my grandma sang beautifully and dreamed of being a singer. The tradition continued on with my mum perpetually singing or humming around the house while working and now with my sister and I singing for amusement or busting into a tune that suits the event or occasion.

My grandma died when I was only 8 years old, but for some reason I always think of her when I’m puzzled by modern day life. Maybe she watches over me nearby. Transplanted from London, England to a remote farm in the frozen hills of southern Saskatchewan with her older husband who impregnated her with nine babies, I imagine that dream was long lost in the multitude of chores and duties required for survival.

I’d love to sit and have tea with my grandma today. Firstly, I’d take her on a tour and ask her what she thinks of life in 2015.

I imagine some of her WTFs would be …

  • That we buy water. And that it costs more in a bottle than fountain soda.
  • That we have cameras on entrances and hallways and every street corner monitoring our every move. Coming from war torn London, she’d likely think the Nazis had invaded again, but with better technology.
  • Facebook and Twitter. I don’t think I’d even be able to come close to explaining it.
  • Reality TV.
  • Armed police officers in schools.
  • Exercising on a treadmill.
  • Satellites.
  • Anti-depressants.
  • Searching for a partner on a dating website.
  • Making a baby in vitro.
  • The astronomical wages of celebrities and sports figures.
  • Monsanto and genetically modified seeds.
  • That a dozen free-range eggs can cost up to $10 and that a decent loaf of bread starts at $5.
  • That a simple chicken dinner (frozen) can have up to 36 ingredients.
  • Starbucks. (Need I say more?)
  • 50 Shades of Grey.

Maybe she’d be in awe of …

  • The Internet and instantaneous worldwide access to information and to each other.
  • Smart phones and computers. (I’d love to see the expression on her face at a “look-a-phone” or Skype.)
  • Dishwashers, washers, and dryers.
  • Kindle.
  • Air conditioning.
  • Tourism.
  • Bose stereos.
  • Strides made in equality.

Grandma BabyWe’d have tea and I’d ask her what her life was like, heart-to-heart. What was it like to have her young mother die when she was only 4 years old and then be sent to live with cruel foster parents? What did it feel like to live in London while being bombed? And to witness vicious public hangings? How scared was she to travel alone on a ship in a cramped hole of a berth? Where did she meet my grandfather? Was she in love with him? What family secrets does she hold? What was it like to land in Canada in a hilly wilderness with no culture, a place so vastly different than her home? And what were all of her dreams, hopes, and aspirations and were any of them ever met?

I’d ask her what she misses about Earth and if she had any regrets. And what she now knows that we don’t, like, what’s it really all about?

She might say she misses the yeasty scent of the bread she baked each morning. Or the assorted bugs her only son would drag into the house in a jar. It’s conceivable she wishes she’d kissed her nine children more often. Maybe she’d tell me life is about listening to the robin’s song in the morning. Or lingering in the eyes of your lover. She may tell me people trump work, always. Possibly she’d tell me to celebrate life and strive for joy over success. And likely she’d say we are here first and foremost to love and be loved.

As much as I have a thirst for knowledge, I yearn for simplicity. Some of the dictates of modern life baffle me. I have an inner call to live only what matters, yet I am assailed by so many things that I believe are humans gone astray, like the fabled Atlantians who went too far and vanished.

In my quest to live the remainder of my life with peace of mind, in freedom, joy and with great love, I think of my grandma and how I would relish having her over for a cuppa tea, maybe a hot scone, and some words of wisdom from a woman of my DNA who came before me.


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Post © Wanda St.Hilaire

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