Today we said goodbye to my Nan. Mavis June Symonds aged 94.
One of my cousins talked about how Nan always had a costume for any occasion. There was the full Santa get-up for Xmas (complete with bell), the Dolly Parton (complete with wig and fake boobs), the Spanish dancer (complete with castanets) and the Rockabilly Rebel (complete with checked shirt). Then there were the bags filled with shoes and necklaces and chandelier earrings- and a whole room for her hundreds of volunteer uniforms. A contingent from the Sydney Olympics Volunteers turned up in their distinctive blue jackets. In fact, contingents turned up from so many different places- there was standing room only in the chapel.
Another cousin said, “no one else had a Nan like we did.”
I wrote about her a bit on my Astro page on Saturday, but listening today to the piece prepared by my mother, I realised I didn’t know her. It made me wonder what I also don’t know about my own mother. I guess it’s like that.
I knew Nan was a Tivoli Chorus Line dancer in the 1930s, I knew the stories of hardship and living in tents that my Mum had previously told us about. I even knew the stories about meeting John Howard at the Sydney Olympics- at 82 Nan was the oldest volunteer. I used to say she would talk to anyone. That was repeated today at the service.
I knew about the 200 odd volunteer uniforms that she had collected between 2000 and April 2012, and I knew about the Campbelltown Citizen of the Year Award back in 2007. I knew about the time she was flown down to Melbourne to be on the Denise Drysdale Show soon after the Olympics. I knew that was the first time on a plane and the first time in a posh hotel.
I knew that she loved to dance, that she loved heels and she loved bling. I knew that she liked nothing better than a party. I knew that she loved animals, could never hold on to money and I knew that she had a heart bigger than anyone else I’ve ever known. I knew that she was the only person in the family who called me by my preferred Jo rather than Joanne. I knew that she loved each of us completely, unconditionally, without judgement and exactly for who we are.
I knew that many people loved her. But there was so very much I didn’t know that I wish now I had known. Not that it would have made any difference, but I wish I knew.
Most of us don’t know the lives behind our parents, or our grandparents. They must have been lives just like the ones that we are living now, but we never saw the problems or the heartache of the happiness or the pain. Especially when we are young. We just see the single dimension, sometimes two, but rarely all.
I have a photo taken at my daughters 1st birthday party- all the first borns: my Mum, me (the first grandchild) and my daughter (the first great grandchild). I treasure it- just like I treasure her and am proud to have been part of her “beautiful family.”
Nan’s wishes were that we’d have a cry and then have a good time. In honour of that my Uncle arranged for 94 balloons in her favourite colours to be released.
I think she would have loved that. Wacky doo.
Here is a link to a story the local paper did on her last year- when she was 93.