Monday, November 12, 2012

Our Nanny

Edith May Evans died peacefully in her sleep on October 28 2012. She will always be our wonderful Nanny and today I would like to share some of my favourite memories and stories she told me over the years.
Nanny was born in Wallasey, Cheshire, England. She had loving parents and three older sisters. As a young girl, the Second World War began. Nanny was taken out of school, away from her family and best friend Barbara Oakley and sent off to the Welsh countryside for protection. When Great Aunt Frank (short for Frances) went to visit her youngest sister, she was upset to find her absolutely miserable. So, she decided to pack Nanny up and take her home again. During the War, all of Nanny's sisters lived at home. Great Aunt Frank and Great Aunt Kate husbands were off fighting and Great Aunt Hilary wasn't married yet. My Great Nanny was glad to have all of her girls home and made it clear that if they were going to go, they would all go together!
Many nights the sirens would go off  during the blitz and the family would head down to the air raid shelter, but Great Aunt Hilary would refuse. One night as everyone was huddled in the shelter, they could hear banging on the door from the outside. "Oh, here's your Hilary," one of the men said as he opened the door. She was in a frantic state and said that their house had a bomb in it! Well, it actually turned out to be a nose cone that crashed right through the roof and got stuck in the bedroom floor! That scared Great Aunt Hilary so much that she never refused to go to the air raid shelter again. That story always made Nan smile, even though their house eventually did end up getting bombed, along with many other houses in the neighbourhood. Nanny's grade school also got bombed and she would always smile about that one as well.
Nanny had a fine time throughout the war years. Her and her three sisters all got war time jobs. Aunt Frank and Aunt Kate made propellers, Aunt Hilary worked at the cleaners, cleaning soldier's uniforms. Nanny got recruited to work in a parachute manufacturing company in Chester. Unfortunately Nanny's only way of getting there would be on her bike and Great Nanny didn't think it safe, so Nan got sent to a nearby flour mill instead. Nanny always said she didn't mind at all because she would have been way too stressed thinking if she had made the parachutes properly! Yikes! At first Nan had a tough time at the mill. She was too small to carry the 50 lb flour sacks on her back. Nan said the big strong girls from Liverpool would have a laugh at her, but told her she didn't have to carry the flour anymore. Nan ended up having a great time at the mill and said that all of the girls would sing and laugh all day long. While at her job at the cleaners, Aunt Hilary met some American soldiers. That year at Christmas, the two of them came to Nanny's house in a jeep filled with rations of food and sweets. It was the most food they had seen in years and spent a wonderful Christmas all together!

Nanny and her best friend Barbara were photographed by a professional and worried their Mothers wouldn't approve. Luckily, both of their Mums loved the photos. Beautiful!
Over the war years Nanny would go to many, many dances in the evenings with her older sisters and met many soldiers from England and the United States. She loved dancing so much and as we all say, Nanny danced her way through the war! A few years later with a lot of training, she won a Silver and Bronze at a ballroom dancing competition! One of  her awards was for a tango, danced to a song named 'Jealousy.'
One of Nanny's favourite things to talk about was her childhood dog Bobby. Bobby was a sheep dog and an extremely smart one at that! My Great Nanny would make a list and put it in an envelope along with money. She would give it to Bobby and tell him to go up the road to the butcher's. A while later, he would come back with the order and change. The funny thing is, is that most of the time the bag was filled with black pudding for his own dinner but Bobby never ate it before he brought it home! During the war, Great Nanny was told that Bobby would make a fantastic war dog since he was so smart and should be sent off.  "No way!" Great Nanny would say. "Not our Bobby!" Phew!
A few years later, Nanny was at a dance with her friends when she met a handsome young man. Not recognising his navy blue uniform, she asked him if he was from the Salvation Army. The young man was quite offended and corrected Nan by telling her that he was indeed a Royal Marine Commando. Oops! Well, he forgave my naive Nan and luckily so, for that handsome man in uniform ended up being the love of Nanny's life, Wally Evans!

Our handsome Grand Dad, Walter Evans.

Nanny and Grand Dad loved to sing and both had beautiful voices. They would often be found gazing into each other's eyes singing. How romantic! The years of singing continued while three daughters were born and the family packed up and moved to Canada in 1957 to start a new life. West Hamilton eventually became their new home. Most of Nanny and Grand Dad's new friends were from Scotland, so the tradition of singing continued.
In April of 1976 my Grand Dad died. Unfortunately I was only a baby and didn't get to know him. A little while later, Nanny and Mum's youngest sister moved in with me and my parents. Aunt Julie got married and left about a year later, but my Dad built an addition onto our house and Nanny stayed with us for 11 years. How special for my two brother's and I to have grown up with our Nanny!
Living with Nanny was wonderful and she was like a second mother to us. She and my Mum loved to bake and when using pastry, us kids always got to make our own jam pies with the leftovers. Nan and Mum loved to pack up a meal and turn it into a picnic. Whether it was simply out in the backyard, at Dundas Driving Park, The Toronto Zoo or Niagara Falls, those picnics were always so much fun! Sunday night dinner was often roast beef with all of the fixings, followed by roast beef and gravy sandwiches on Mondays, served with Nanny's homemade chips (fries). Yum, yum, yum! Nanny wouldn't use salad dressing, instead she would simply crumble sharp Cheshire cheese on her greens, a practise I still use today. Lemon juice and sugar were sprinkled on Nanny's pancakes instead of maple syrup and I must admit, I prefer it as well. I love traditional English fare and I have my Nanny to thank for that!
Nan also helped us kids not to be afraid of thunderstorms. Whenever one would come, Nanny would take us out on the porch to watch the magic happen! You see, the splashes of rain that hit the road and sidewalks aren't really rain at all, they are actually dancing rain fairies who only come out when it pours down hard. How lovely is that!
While living with us, Nanny slowly got over the loss of her husband and started a new life. She eventually left our house and got her own apartment. She met her good friend Mary and began to dance again. Even though Nanny had moved out, we all remained so close. Mum and her sisters visited all of the time and as I got older, I would go to Nanny's apartment to visit on my own. Once a week I would go for lunch. During this time we watched many films. 'Now, Voyager' starring Bette Davis and the dashing Paul Henreid was one of our faves.We also loved Dark Victory, Harry Potter, Moonstruck and Dracula. We listened to music, especially to Italian opera which Nan loved so much, The Three Tenors being her favourites. We would also talk about books. Nanny was an avid reader and read about 5 or more books a week! The history of England would always my subject of choice and Nanny knew it all! Nan would often scold me for not reading more and would encourage me by sending me home with a book to read. Ha!
Many years past and Nanny found her latest apartment in Shalom Village, Hamilton. It was painted the same yellow as her old apartment and was filled her furniture, photos, paintings and books. Our family visits continued and my Mum, Aunt Barb and Aunt Julie made sure that their Mother had a visitor every evening of the week. I would spend most of my Monday evenings with Mum and Nanny, chatting and listening to a lot of the stories I have shared with you today. Instead of reading her own books, we would take turns to read aloud to Nanny every night. And believe it or not, she would still tell me off for not reading more and recommended books for me to read! That's my Nan!
This past weekend, we had a gathering to celebrate Nanny's life. We enjoyed delicious food, told stories, looked at photos and listened to Nanny and Grand Dad's favourite songs and them singing together on recordings we cherish. We sang! We danced! We celebrated! We celebrated Nanny's life and it was truly wonderful!
Even though someone is gone, as long as their stories and memories are told, they will live on forever. I never knew my Grand Dad and yet I feel as if I do through all of the stories I have heard about him throughout my life. It will be the same with my Nanny in our family with each new child that comes into it. We all hold our Nanny dear and we will all remember her in our own way. For me, so many things remind me of Nan, especially whenever there is a thunderstorm and the rain fairies are out dancing.
Goodbye our dearest Nanny. Although the visits are over, we can still see your sweet face in our minds, those beautiful blue eyes, hear your lovely singing voice and feel your arms around us forever. I love you, Nanny.

Nanny and Grand Dad

Mum, Nanny, Great Aunt Hilary and Great Aunt Kate
Mum, Nanny, Aunt Julie and Aunt Barb
Mary, Aunt Barb, Aunt Julie and Nanny


Ng said...

It was great to read these stories about the family!

Sarah Visheau said...

thank you very much!