8 March 2017 – International Women’s Day in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
The first country in the world to allow a woman the right to vote.
This day always makes me feel somewhat staunch in my demands for women’s rights around the world. Yes, I have been to my share of marches to demonstrate with emotion and outrage. Instead of focusing on how much further we have to go for equal rights. I am going to concentrate on one woman who has lived an ordinary life and was extraordinary in her kindness to others. Who made an impact on my life, as a child, and adult, plus I believe on all who knew her.
I called her Nana.
Nana who was born between two wars. Though the event that was to impact on her life the most was the Spanish flu epidemic period. She was to lose both her parents by the time she was just 5 years of age. She had 3 brothers and 1 sister.
Unfortunately and sadly, the children were separated. Nana and her younger brother went to live with an Aunt, her husband and their son, the other three went to a Catholic orphanage in Auckland.
This woman, I called Nana, loved not just me but all my siblings and cousins in her quiet, patient, loving and non-judgemental way. I never heard her say a wrong word against another soul. To her, we were all perfect, and no one could tell her otherwise.
Though I am sure most ‘Nanas’ think the same.
Aren’t all Nana’s special women?
I think they are, women with an essential role in any child’s life!
This is not to say that my Mum, Aunties, sister, female cousins and friends have not made an equal or more of an impact, because they have, during different segments of my life.
With a heart of gold, Nana made my school holidays so memorable.
Small things such as helping her feed all the stray cats around the countryside that used to visit her on a daily basis. Each cat had its own bowl situated by the back door under a large plum tree. From that prize-winning tree, jars of jam were produced for the local fair when my Mother and Auntie were young. Most of us kids used to gorge ourselves on the delicious plump fruit [or was that just me?]. It was also a cool oasis in summer, and fun to climb.
An exceptional treat was a visit, to the tearoom [only one in Gisborne in the late 1960’s to 1970’s] which was above a department store, sipping my cold drink with a chocolate eclair. Of course, I was in my Sunday best and Nana in her ‘going out’ cardigan and skirt [she never wore pants, and she had a tan mark where her gumboots finished just slightly below her skirts].
Those gumboots and her would have me and the rest of us traipsing around the small farm that she lived on helping her with various chores. Such as stoking up the firebox under the copper so washing could be done. Then the laundry was taken to be hung out on the rope line and me, of course, got to pull the wooden pole down lower as Nana was short in stature.
The warmer months would see her get on her bike after filling her basket with flowers and cycle miles to the cemetery to lay flowers on her families headstones and other peoples’ that she had known. She was still doing this in her late seventies.
Plus, there were other chores to do such as dealing with kumera plants that would be planted out in the back paddocks. In front of those paddocks was a HUGE shed filled with wooden boxes that eventually would be used to transport the kumara to the local market. That shed was the background of many family and cousin photographs that Nana took of our visits. She loved to capture us all, not once, but twice, just to make sure she had a good shot.
Nana with 2 great-grandchildren – thanks to Julie [my cousin] for supplying some photos on such short notice! Mine are in storage.
Those are just a few of the wonderful happy times I can remember, there are many, and I am sure my siblings and cousins have many ones themselves. What’s, even more, fun than going over childhood memories is the keepsakes. I still have letters that I wrote to Nana as a child. Yes, she kept all the letters I and the rest of us wrote to her.
At the end of the day, you don’t need to have achieved something ‘extraordinarily significant’ in life to have left a huge mark on people’s lives. Maybe it’s just all about extraordinarily sharing the love.
This is what our Nana did, shared the love in her quiet and gentle way.
Today we get to celebrate her as a woman.
And to say “Thank you.”
To all women,
who make our world a better place in which to live.