My grandmother, Joan Beer, died today. She was 90 years old. It is hard to imagine that she is no longer in this world. Here are some memories of Granny.
It starts when I am three and I jumped into her suitcase in South Africa wanting to leave with her. She had given me a doll called Cherry who came outfitted with an entire hand knitted set of clothes. I hated her because she wasn’t blond. She is now one of my treasures possessions.
Her house at 109. Watching the hedgehogs in the garden after dark, eating Wiener schnitzel and filling up on chocolate buttons.
Then summers at Blandings playing in the enormous wading pool or Wendy house. Driving around London listening to Abba, playing air hostess with her box of scarves and gloves that she always kept by the door. Buying dress up clothes and assorted fun things at Woolworths and WH Smiths on the Broadway.
Eating more chocolate buttons.
A trip to Bourmouth on holiday when I was 9 was when Granny and Grandad bought the house at Corfe. Wonderful memories at Corfe were soon to follow. Running in the garden, visiting the miniature village, playing in the mini house, having tea parties, eating chocolate buttons.
It was Granny who took me shopping before I started boarding school. Helped me buy all the toiletries and got me ready before she dropped me off for the first time at my new boarding school.
I could always talk to her. She was a happy confidant and loved a good gossip. She was the one who saved me when I accidentally left one expensive black leather boot in a hotel room in Russia. She bought me a new pair and promised to never tell my Mother.
She walked me and a friend around Carnaby Street on a weekend home from school because we were so excited to see it.
But she was strict. She could laugh and giggle like no one but she was very strict. If I crossed a line or upset her I knew it.
Then my sister and I grew up and she made it her mission to ensure that her granddaughters had smooth soft skin, handing us bottles of Dior and Clarins lotions and potions whenever we saw her.
Lunches at Harrods became a firm tradition. First in the fancy room with the piano and later at the terrace with the wonderful smoked salmon sandwiches.
Granny loved being a great grandmother and great she was. I always told her that she was the matriarch of the family and she loved that. She loved to see all four girls at once. Hiding treats in the garden and watching them all run about was the greatest joy for her. She would even make a fairy tea party in the garden and spoil them with little cakes, goodies and wonderful clothes from Paris. She taught them to knit and was always working on some sweater or cardigan for them. They grew faster than she knitted, however. When she stayed with us in Burford she loved being woken up by all four girls, sharing her morning biscuit with them. And how she loved her little great grandson, Sammy. His big hugs! She always looked at him with a special expression of awe and wonder. How could such a special boy exist?
And always chocolate buttons. Before I would leave to return to Canada she would give me bags of buttons for my suitcase.
However far away I was, there was a strong bond. We would chat on the phone and her and my eldest would write to each other. At times she was lonely and cross and would never hide that. She needed to vent a little.
She just loved to go out and have fun. Whether to the ballet, out to dinner…but the visit to Buckingham Palace topped them all. I remember her squeezing my arm and saying “isn’t this fun!” She also said “oh I am happy I lived to see this!”
My Gran was simply the best Gran in the world. She could spoil us, laugh with us, chat away and yet when we were small be strict too. I always knew she loved me. There was never a doubt in my mind that she got huge joy from being a grandparent and great grandparent. Nothing pleased her more that seeing all the children run in her beautiful garden.
She was never an old lady. In fact she always had an elegance about her. She refused to be old or let herself go. The ladies at the Dior counter knew her as well as the people at her local gourmet grocery store.
I can’t imagine a world without her. She had a huge personality and was a large presence in all our lives. I am so grateful that my children got to know their Granny Joan. She made an impression on them that can never be wiped away.
We will all continue to love her.