When I was a wee lass I would sometimes sleep-over at my grandparents’ on the weekend. This was referred to as staying at Nanna’s, as Pop was almost a non-entity. Regardless, his mere silence could be quite powerful. No one wanted to upset Pop - he was raised in police barracks and later trained men in the army. You never sat in Pop’s chair, never got in the way of ABC evening news, and never made a ‘peep’ when Pop had his afternoon nap. Never.
Nanna and I would happily pass the time playing games such as Yahztee, Ludo, rummy; or if my cousins came by, 21/Pontoon. We would bet with matches and could sometimes get quite rowdy. (Note: none of us suffer from gambling addictions in adulthood – although, scarily, one has been known to frequent Bingo halls.)
Do not assume my grandmother was the type to let the kiddies win. No, indeed Nanna was overjoyed to thrash us at a game. She would confidently tease, eyes twinkling: ‘I’m gonna beat you!’ (If it was Chinese Checkers, she was right; she always beat me.) Even with simple games like Ludo she would thump her piece along the squares, happily stomping it on top of yours, ‘SMACK!’ sending your man back home. At such moments she would peer over the table with a wicked, mischievous grin. This was no trivial past-time to entertain the kiddies, this was Competition; this was Sport!
She really was great fun my Nanna.
My mother was a good sport at playing games; even would colour-in with me (only child remember). But she had to put up with me praying... Apparently, when losing a game of Dominoes or Go Fish (my cards hidden behind some haphazard shelter because my hands were too small to hold them) I would bow my head, close my eyes and solemnly pray… to win. Mum, being a reasonably devout Catholic at the time, was in a bit of a bind but apparently she usually decided to let me be the victor. (Well, she had told me if I prayed to God He’d help me, so…)
It’s fortunate I haven’t become some kind of con-artist or evil cult-leader after such successes.
If I ever tried that trick on Nanna she surely would’ve bestowed upon me a sneering raised-eyebrow look of, That trick ain’t gonna work on me, kiddo!
In light of the fun and games and flamboyant personality of my grandmother, you may have guessed these are not the same grandparents I have mentioned previously which had scary rules at the dinner table, killer bees, etc. My Nanna didn’t impose proper dining etiquette upon me, quite the opposite. I was spoilt with dinners of heavenly meat pies covered with lashings of tomato sauce and cut up into small triangles. This was placed on a tray, and I was placed in front of the TV. Bliss. And being the wonderful grandmother she was, there was ever the delight of being allowed, even encouraged (!), to indulge in a chocolate-coated ice-cream (they were Home Brand, but still heaven to us grandkids).
The best part of my stay was always the morning. This was then I was well and truly spoilt. Presented before me for breakfast was Rice Bubbles cereal, a jug of milk and a bowl of sugar. It all essentially ended up being one big bowl of sugar (all good grandmothers know the reverence induced through liberal applications of sugar).
Once I was full of bubbly-sugared goodness I would join Nanna for some fairy stories. We would snuggle up together by the window of her sitting-room and she would invent stories. On cool mornings, she would accompany these tales with illustrations upon the misty window. I would draw too and immerse myself entirely in her world of fairies: sleeping in flowers or atop colourful toadstools, wandering amongst the woods and encountering strange elves and mischievous pixies in their adventures. It was absolute bliss.
Really, I was a very lucky girl.