10 things I learnt when traveling with my Nanna

This year I was lucky enough to be taken on an amazing trip around Canada and Alaska for 3 weeks with my Nanna and my Mum. This is what I learnt.

  1. As I’ve grown older I feel an overwhelming desire and responsibility to protect my Nanna as she protected me when I was a child. My Nan is 84 years old, hits the gym 3 times a week and showed everyone how zip-lining was done through Whistler’s mountains, but I still found myself watching her step and reaching for her hand as she unloaded the coach. Although, no matter what my age a hug from my Nanna will always take me back to the time my hand fit nearly onto her soft palm, and her rosy perfume clung to my blonde curls.
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Nan and I (1996)
  1. I learnt that traveling with me keeps my Nan young. From taking her on ghost tours through the rumoured haunted hotel, to doing the chicken dance with her in an empty ballroom, I have her giggling “like a school girl.” I can safely say she knows who Beyoncé is because of me.
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Nan, 84, zip-lining in Whistler. With grace, of course.
  1. Family secrets and past lives are revealed. I always pictured my Nan as only the angelic, English woman who fed me boiled sweets and taught me tricks on the trampoline, until I read her life story a few months ago. Her stories shocked me, as I was yet to even hear a swear word pass her lipsticked lips.

She was a woman before her time – well educated and ambitious. As I urged her to tell me tales of her life on our trip, she revealed nights of dancing with “fetching” Denmark men, how she fell in love with my Grandpa, and how she fell out of love with him. As we strolled through the trails of Banff, arms linked and breathing in the scent of pine, I questioned her on experiences of the war and an abusive older brother. These are moments I will treasure forever, and stories that your own grandparents are desperate to tell you if you take the time to listen (and throw in a glass of wine, or two).

A few glasses of wine on the Rocky Mountaineer, and all the secrets came flowing out.
A few glasses of wine on the Rocky Mountaineer, and all the secrets came flowing out.
  1. You learn who your grandparents were before they were just your grandparents. They have had amazing lives and careers that most of us are completely unaware of. My Nan grew up in a time that I have only seen featured in films, under threat of bombing, and when love letters were delivered into a letterbox not an inbox. She was clever, cheeky and classy. A dancer, a singer, and a thrill-seeker. She worked with the deaf and the blind, and was a pioneer in her field at a time when women were only just beginning to infiltrate male-dominated work places.
  1. And she is that same young girl. Just with a pension and sun spots. She has been known to still crash Bollywood weddings in Banff.
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Riding the gondola over Whistler.
  1. They get to really know you. For the first time my Nan saw me tipsy (and on cold and flu medication) and kept gasping at how she had never been me so “silly”, as I tried to teach her how to dance to Single Ladies. They see you, flaws and all – the flaws you are usually able to hide at family get togethers.
  1. It is hard to watch someone you love get older. As a kid I struggled to keep up with my active Nan, as she took me bush walking behind her house, on a search for blue tongue lizards. But now, I have to slow my step to walk at her pace. It can be frustrating, and it is scary to consider their mortality. But even though my Nan’s hearing has deteriorated, her heart remains young. And she will out dance you any night of the week.
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Our love for champagne must be hereditary.
  1. I learnt that there is a much larger generational gap between my Mum and my Nan, than my Mum and I, that didn’t allow them to have the same close relationship that my own Mum and I have. Things were different back then, and parents weren’t allowed to be your friend. Today, we are much more honest. I am probably a bit too honest for my Nan’s liking, but at least we can be real.
Three generations take Canada and Alaska.
Three generations take Canada and Alaska.
  1. It may be cliché, but grandparents really do hold an immensity of wisdom that can only be learnt over a lifetime. My Nan knows she has made mistakes; in her marriage, in her parenting, in her single life. Over Baileys and a decadent brownie Nan told me all the problems in her marriage could have been resolved if they had of had maturity. She also said to travel young, always wear layers, and pack a pair of fresh knickers in your backpack.
  1. You will create new memories. Traveling for 22 days through two countries, 6 hotels, and countless cities will always be time I will cherish. I know not many people can say they get that opportunity, and I hope I took every chance to hear her stories, hold her soft hand and try to piece together her life in an era I only learnt about in school.
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Nan’s hugs are the best. No matter what age.

You are never too old to become younger” – Mae West

Tis’ the Season to be Anxious

Christmas. A time of joy, a time of happiness, a time of anxiety. If you’re one of those people that love the Christmas season, you’ve probably never worked in retail. Or had three separate Christmas events to attend on Christmas day. It’s the time of year to overeat, overspend and overcompensate. Once a religious day celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas has now become a consumerism’s dream.

Still struggling to understand how Christmas could be anything apart from enjoyable? I’ll give you a little run down of how I spent my Christmas this year…

Christmas Eve was at my Dad’s house. After working eight hours serving the lovely, festive people that Christmas brings to shopping centres (yes that would be sarcasm you hear) I came home to my house full of family, awkwardly trying to help in our overcrowded kitchen. A few games of monopoly, a two-course meal, and two hours of carols later the Christmas Eve festivities were over – we all needed our rest for Christmas day of course. It all started again at 730am with the annual present giving, my little cousin waking up at 6am to see what Santa brought. With wrapping paper spread across the floor, hugs and kisses are shared, photos are taken and the word ‘receipt’ is whispered as I looked at my hot pink rose twin set. Really? After breakfast is finished – the first of many meals, it is time for lunch with my Mum’s side followed by dinner/dessert with my boyfriend’s parents.

Don’t get me wrong I love spending time with my family, and I love the fundamentals of Christmas; who could not love a day of food, presents and alcohol? But as you get older the holiday season is more stressful than a regular old workday. My brother definitely had the right idea this year, getting his drink spiked the night before and sleeping for the whole of Christmas. Smart kid.

Half my pessimistic view of Christmas can probably be put down to working in retail. Whilst everyone else is on holiday break, I’m working the most hours I’ve worked all year. Then comes the after Christmas sales where the words what the f**k run through my head at last 40 times a day. I swear they call it the silly season because people lose half their brain, bank account and apparently their manners over the two-week period of Christmas and New Years.

Working in retail truly opens your eyes to the money hungry beast that is Christmas. The food and presents is all well and good, but the core of Christmas is undoubtedly consumerism. Wondering through the shopping centre a few days before Christmas, I saw hundreds of red faced people with shopping bags up to their elbows barking over the phone and rolling their eyes at the next innocent shopping assistant that tells them ‘Sorry we are sold out of that size.” I looked at them and thought Wow that was me when I had been Christmas shopping a few days earlier. There is none of the ‘Christmas joy’ people speak about. Just a whole lot of soon-to-be broke people with Michael Buble’s It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas playing in the background.

I have been known to go a little OTT with Christmas. I spend weeks planning the perfect gift, then finding the perfect gift, and then panicking the next day because it is no longer perfect so I must buy something else, and something to go with it because what if my boyfriend spends more on me? Should he spend more on me because he earns more? I’ll just buy him one more thing… $700 later and I’m too scared to look at my bank account… ever again.

I can’t help but wonder if we have lost the true meaning of Christmas. I’d be willing to bet my next pay cheque (don’t get too excited, it wouldn’t be much considering I am writing this from my holiday house) that most kids would have no clue that Christmas has anything to do with the birth of Jesus. I watched my little cousin rip through dozens of presents on Christmas, each entertaining him for a whole four minutes before moving on to the next. But if you asked him the meaning of Christmas I’m sure his answer would have been “Jesus who?” As I am not a hugely religious person myself, I won’t even begin to enter the religious side of Christmas that has been completely forgotten, but what Christmas seems to have been with in more modern times; family, joy, time of giving, time of thankfulness and all that other happy stuff.

Christmas seems to have become such a lavish affair with each year having to top the next. In a time that seems far far away today, my Nan speaks of getting one present at Christmas – often handmade, often a hand-me-down. Working in retail store that caters for kids I see parents piling up the toys and clothes for “their little angels” who are bashing each other in the corner of the store or screaming “BUT MUMMY I WANT THIS ONE TOO.” Now I know my mum will say this is rich coming from me, someone who has a colour coded Christmas/Birthday list (as my birthday is a few days after Christmas) but this year was the first year where I realised the presents, the money spent – it doesn’t matter. And it’s not worth it.

My thoughts are Christmas needs to come back to basics. I mean what is the point entering a new year broke, stressed and three kilos heavier? I am all for splurging on the ones you love, but there is a lot to be said for meaningful gifts, and a humble day.

Next year I want to avoid the curse of Christmas consumerism. I want to find the joy of Christmas I felt when I was six years old. I don’t want to anxiously await the day, ticking of the presents I’ve bought and calculating how I can buy one more gift and still buy food next week.

Anyone with me? Or am I officially the Grinch?

Leaving

Leaving

I was eight years old the first time I saw my Dad cry. He looked up at me with tear stained cheeks. He sat on the veranda of our house brushing Tara’s coat over and over, speaking to her so only she could hear. Black, white and grey fur surrounded them.. I remember sitting with them without words. I was holding my Dad’s hand in the same way he was holding Tara’s paw – a simple gesture of reassurance.

Our two other dogs, Kaspa and Kosmo, sat somehow understanding the moments gravity. Even when a car came down the driveway they remained still, usually taking the opportunity to barrel a visitor over. My mum shook the person’s hand.

“That is the vet from Glenorie”, my brother whispered to me. Some small talk was made as my Dad called Tara to our front garden. She moved slowly, her arthritic bones showing her age but her eyes just as a puppy. My family covered her with words of love and her favourite treats.

“She will start to fall asleep now”, the vet said. Tears dropped onto her fur. She didn’t seem to mind. Dad cradled her lifeless body to the grave he had dug. It was lined with pink satin sheets.

RIP Tara. Thank you for always being so tolerant, even when I used to pretend you were a pony.
RIP Tara. Thank you for always being so tolerant. Even when I used to pretend you were my pony.