People always say you have to wear green on St. Patty’s day, but when I lived in Peterborough, Ontario someone told me that you can also wear Orange. Catholics wore green and Protestants wore orange, they said.
My great-grandmother – who I knew as “Nana” – was from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her family was Protestant. When I was about five I asked her what her “what’s your favourite colour, Nana?” “Grey and black,” she replied. “Those don’t seem like very nice colours, Nana!” When I recounted this story to my mother (Eileen) she smirked and said “black and grey aren’t colours Nathaniel – they’re shades. That’s just her Irish wit coming through.”
Nana died at the age of 93 in 1989. I didn’t know her all that well; she was quite old and not really all there by the time I came around in 1981. These rare moments of lucidity between myself and my great-grandmother were special. Even in her latter days, traces of her infectious personality sparkled through from time to time.
Eileen had a very special relationship with her grandmother. They lived together back when she was in university and Nana knew that my mother didn’t eat nearly enough. Instead of offering Eileen healthy foods that she might turn down Nana spoiled her with Pop Tarts and other stuff that she loved.
Eileen came to visit Nana several times a week, every week, until the day she died. I often tagged along for these visits. Sometimes they were really boring so I’d explore her room. Everyone always gave Nana cookies, boxed candy and biscuits. I never saw her eat them so I knew she had ’em stashed somewhere. I opened up the drawer beneath the table and found the great-grandmotherlode of shortbread! “Can I have some cookies, Nana?” She looked at me, her eyes aglow, smiled and said “Yes!”
I was always a hyper child so my sugar intake was severely limited at home. But there I was eating a box of shortbread cookies while watching Thomas the Tank with Nana. It’s a treasured memory. I’m grateful that I was able to know her, even if it was a very limited connection.
Getting back to her favourite colour… it was green. Apparently everything in her house was green. Green china, green tablecloths, and so forth. Apparently my grandmother was not a fan of the colour.
My favourite colour happens to be orange, but today I’ll wear green in honour of Nana.