A dear couple I know are celebrating their forty-ninth anniversary today. This remarkable occasion – and the discovery of my mother’s parents’ wedding announcement the other day – reminded me that both sets of my grandparents were married for more than half a century, and that they were devoted to each other. Indeed, my mother’s parents (known to us as Nana and Hoho*) asked to buried the same way they stood in front of the minister on their wedding day, she on the right and he on the left.
I was lucky enough to spend the last summers of my grandparents’ lives with them. I was always interested in the past, and loved to hear about when they were young, in the early 1900s. During my visit with Nana and Hoho, I was looking through a box of photos that dated back to my grandparents’ high school days, and found one of an unknown brunette. I asked my grandmother who it was. She took one look at it and grabbed it from me, tearing it up and throwing it away, to my surprise.
My grandmother was the kind of woman whose shoes always matched her handbag, and who made sure to be wearing nice undergarments when she left the house, “just in case anything happened”. Her nickname in the small town where she and my grandfather spent their married lives was The Lady. So her behavior was a little unusual.
My grandfather looked up from his paper, and Nana said to him, “Katie Shaw! I saw her at the church picnic, and she was fat, Ernest! She was fat!” Bustling off to the kitchen, she added, “You and your Katies and your Violets!” Apparently I had unearthed a photo of the now portly Katie Shaw, along with memories of girlfriends past.
Hoho just giggled and winked at me.
The summer I spent with my Dad’s parents (Grammie** and Daddy’s Daddy*), my grandmother gave me a book on decorative handwriting, which I also came across during my recent book purge. After giving it to me, she asked Daddy’s Daddy if he knew where she had gotten it, with what I can only describe as a flirtatious look.
He guessed a couple of names, which have now escaped me, one of whom he’d “seen looking at you in church”, and another who apparently tried to cut Daddy’s Daddy out by waking out of church with Grammie. Clearly, churches and their picnics are dangerous places (and/or hotbeds of romance – you decide). He never did guess the right name, to her great amusement.
Grammie, true to her Victorian upbringing, set aside one day a week to do laundry, and another to bake. On baking days, Daddy’s Daddy would bring his armchair (the one no-one else was allowed to sit in) into the tiny kitchen to watch her. He couldn’t bear to be away from her the whole day. And if we were late coming home from the shops – Grammie didn’t have a refrigerator, so shopping was a nearly daily event – he’d be hovering in the front garden, looking anxiously for his beloved wife.
It was wonderful to be in the presence of such long-lived love and devotion, and it’s a gift I have treasured ever since. Here’s to another happy couple on their very special day, and wishing them many, many more.
*Hoho because of his laugh, and he laughed a lot. And Daddy’s Daddy because we were so amazed that our Daddy had a Daddy of his own.
**Just last night, I was thinking how much I’d love to hear her call me “my pet” again.