My Grandmother passed away over Christmas and today was her funeral. The past few days I have been thinking about what to write about my Nan, especially in relation to simple living. Through necessity, Nan and Pop lived a simple life as did most people of that time. I asked her once what she did before cling wrap and she had to think for a while and said ‘I’m not sure – we just did’. I suppose that is simple living in a nut shell – just doing. Getting by with what you have not because you want to, but because you have to.
Nan was born the sixth child and second daughter of Howard and Florence Simmons on the 4th March, 1920. Nan grew up in Maitland, NSW and in 1942 she married my Grandfather Jack. They stayed in Maitland where my Mum and two Aunties were born and the family moved to Belmont in 1959 and then in 1962 they moved to Sydney.
My first experience of home grown veggies and meat came from Nan and Pop. Pop had a wonderful veggie garden and I remember Nan bottling up the excess – beetroot and rhubarb in particular. They also had chickens and our baked dinners often had the odd feather left under a wing – whilst Pop had killed the chook, Nan cleaned and of course cooked it. I remember being terrified of the chickens, especially after Mum’s stories of freshly killed hens chasing her around the back yard.
Mum said they always ate best when they were broke as they would have to ‘live off the land’ – however small a piece it may be. Pop would also fish and set traps for crabs.
My Nan was a wonderful lady. Although my Mum and Aunties tell stories of how strict Nan was when they were young, I remember Nan always being gentle and kind – I am pretty sure she spoiled us rotten. I remember being allowed to have an ice-cream cone before dinner and when we were out at the shops we often got a treat.
My first experience with a button tin was at Nan’s. I remember the wonderful feeling of running my fingers through the buttons (a feeling I still love). Nan also had a tin full of old cottons – the ones with the wooden spools.
I remember playing a lot with Nan (and Pop) as a child. Their home was one I always looked forward to visiting. There were lots of things I could play with – real things, not just kids toys - like the button tin and the cotton reels and I don’t remember Nan ever scolding me or telling me to stop touching things.
Of course there were things I knew I wasn’t allowed to go near. Nan had a china cabinet that was completely off limits. I was always fascinated by the cabinet and all the beautiful things inside it. Nan gave me the cabinet a few years ago and it is still filled with beautiful things – most of them are hers but I have begun to add to the collection.
My Nan was a wonderful, kind, generous person. Her legacy is her three daughters, seven grandchildren, fifteen great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild.
Nan, we love you and you will be sorely missed.
Jack and Biddy Taylor