Artist: Leigh Matson
As a child, Christmas would usually be spent at our grand-parents’ place which was a five hour drive from our place. We would all have Christmas day together and then our parents would leave me and my brother and sister there while they went off to have six weeks together. I have many memories about this time and I was pondering why it had such a strong effect on me.
My sister and I were supposed to help Nana cook, clean and sew, and we were expected to stay clean and neat and do the ‘right’ thing – be the ‘good’ girl. I hated this imposition and I reacted by being very rude to Nana and becoming a tomboy.
Nana’s weakness was desserts and sweet treats and as a consequence she was over-weight and I found it repulsive. She wasn’t obese by today’s standards but what would repulse me was the self-indulgence and her neediness which made her put on weight for protection. She would consume chocolate eclairs and sponge cake at afternoon tea and entice us to indulge with her. She was always pressing us to have more as it was her way of showing her love and she would feel rejected if we did not eat up. I never liked sweets so I never fulfilled her need in that way.
Yet I loved her in her essence. She had a deep sensitivity and love of nature and God. She had healing hands and though they were roughened by hard work and gnarled with arthritis, love flowed through her hands when she rubbed my back. Sometimes when she hugged me I would feel I could melt into the bosom of the universe. Other times I would find her hugs repulsive – I felt smothered and found it hard to breathe. I realise now that it was not her that repulsed me but the neediness that was looking for something to fill the emptiness.
My grandfather was the perfect picture of a good upstanding citizen and dutiful husband but he did not know how to love her to the core of her inner beauty and sacredness. So food became her solace – her substitute for love. She dulled herself down and abdicated from her power and authority, becoming a quietly submissive shadow of her true self and often withdrawing from life. I hated this. She had a ‘poor constitution’ and easily went into overwhelm so I suspect it was challenging for her to have three boisterous kids on her hands for so long.
The grand-smothering was not from Nana per se. Society’s pictures and ideals were imposed on her during her own upbringing. This imposition had made her curb her natural love of life and joy of being and made her conform to the rules and regulations of society so much so that she lost herself. She was being smothered by an energy that was suffocating her. She was a passive controller and manipulator and unconsciously she was imposing it on us. This was what I reacted to. It sometimes felt like quicksand was trying to swallow me up and the only way to feel safe was to find solid ground within my own body.
What is obvious to me is how children see all this going on and they can feel both the essence and the imposition that comes through people, so they see through the roles that adults play.
Women are led to think they are entitled to play the role of grandmother. If we identify with the role, we can bring through this ‘smothering’ energy and let it dictate our movements. If we just be who we are, responding to the needs of the grandchildren with no sense of obligation, and no imposition on them from any ideals and beliefs, we can be true role models as women in our elder years. A truly GRAND mother.
Sandra N., Australia
If you enjoyed this article you may also like to read:
Magnificence at Play