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Reflections on the Nana I Never Had
Iona McLaughlin | My Paternal Grandmother
I never met her, but I heard about her. My mind conjures up an image of her drawn from the many descriptions given of her. Her elegance, beauty, style, mannerisms, diction, speech and ladylike moves. She wore dresses mostly, never flats, always heels. She wore pearls of all lengths and sizes. Her hair neatly combed back to show her delicate features and high cheek bones. Her hair was long and she braided at bedtime.
I imagine her in her garden dressed in her finest dress and heels, or in her sitting room creating delicate doulies that found its way into my bedroom as a child. I always believed that if I had met her, if I had known her, how much she would have taught me. I feel that I embody her essence with what I choose to wear, and how I present myself, to include my speech and mannerisms. If I had a chance to have gotten to know her, I would have studied her, learned more about being a girl, a woman.
She met her husband at a garden party, a cricket match. They danced, loved and traveled to faraway places in search of adventures. They lived a good and happy life. They bore two children, sons, one died in a plague, the other survived. She loved her surviving son more than anything else on earth, and she sheltered him from all harm, in all of her grace. She was at an epic high, with happiness until the death of her son. Though with sadness surrounding her, her elegance and beauty never faded, her strength made her stronger, more vibrant.
When she arrived in the U.S. to visit her son, she had cut her hair, and was wearing pencil pants. Times had changed, women chose pants over dresses. She never retired her heels though, and between her pencil pants, she changed and wore her dresses at dinnertime. She was a lady of her time. She was my paternal grandmother.
I often times wonder what she’d say about my choice of clothes, or the bright blue toe nail polish I wear. My hair goes wild with curls, or long and straight with effort. I am not comfortable in heels, and my daily dress wearing days ended in middle school. But everything else about me is her. I cut my hair, its growing back. I wear my pearls, I have sons, and I wear pencil pants. Our beauty has been described as “vintage.” It’s genetic.
Her eyes would ache to see how children dress these days: girls in yoga pants, boys in PJ bottoms —and flip-flops no matter the weather. My eyes ache on her behalf. But as it happened to her back then, it continues to happen. Styles change, people change, circumstances happen. But what never changes is your core, your sense of self-style, presentation, speech, diction.
I wish she could tell me her thoughts, give me lessons in walking in heels. Teach me the fine art of doilies making. Help me to love dresses again. Would she like my bright red lipstick, I wonder?
***This post was written by Raquel Lynn for Adonia Prada | The Skinny, where it originally appeared, and was re-published with permission.***