My grandmother was an amazing lady, of very independent nature. Born and bred Scottish woman who wore her tweeds and sensible brogues till the day she died. She would walk her dog five miles in the morning and five miles in the evening over the Scottish highlands, cooked and baked all her own food, made all of her clothes and very much of the don’t waste a thing brigade. Gifts for my grandmother were in itself a challenge, she didn’t like flowers, perfumes and bath scents was definitely out of the question. Recipe books another non item, to get a gift for her was a head scratching and endless discussion within the family.
We bought her clothing, which we found still with the labels on in her drawers. We bought her books to read, she gave them away. She loved to get photographs of the grandchildren so she got plenty of framed photographs that gave those members of the family a sigh of relief wrapping up those pictures. No matter what gift we gave her, she would smile sweetly and thank us profusely, but we knew it would just head into one of her many drawers, stored lovingly away.
The family would cry ‘she doesn’t need anything; she wants for nothing, what can we get for her?’ Granddad was no help ‘och just get her some chocolates’ he would advise, but even with the best will in the world six boxes of chocolates would be a bit over the top in the gift stakes. Of course Granddad was easy to buy for, socks, aftershave and whiskey. One year none of us bought him aftershave he was most upset he had to go and buy some as normally it would last all year. We were never silly enough to think of alternative gifts for granddad again.
Then one year I broke away from the usual discussions of what to get Grandmother and decided to put together a hamper of all of her favourite things. I spent three months before Christmas popping into the hamper, a large tin of Quality Street, of which she was most fond of, a book of twelve stamps, a pad, pen and envelopes. Food items of various kinds, teabags etc. tights from thick to thin to take her through winter, spring and summer. Hat and glove set, a new apron with pockets in the front and a selection of her favourite biscuits. Proudly I wrapped it up and waited with excitement for Christmas to arrive to give her my gift.
I hadn’t told anyone about my gift so there we all were, waiting for grandmother to arrive, she came and sat in her favourite seat and one by one accepted her presents, I had deliberately waited till last, the hamper was heavy and cumbersome as I walked unsteadily over to her, I placed it carefully on the floor in front of her. Her eyes widened as she looked at the gaily wrapped parcel in front of her, everyone waited longing to know what I had bought. Leaning forward she carefully removed the paper, folded it and placed it to one side, and then like a child she giggled and opened the hamper lid, and let out a squeal of delight at the goodies laid out in front of her.
We all looked at each other and laughed at her delight, as she emptied the contents in front of her then re-packed them back in again. When she had gone home and we were left sitting and chatting we reflected that we had been trying to hard over the years of finding a gift for Grandmother, we had not looked at the kind of woman she was, a woman that had been through two world wars, had to make do and wasted nothing. In the end the gift that had delighted her had been simple and things that she used in her daily life. She hadn’t wanted fancy gifts; they were frivolous to her all she wanted was the simple things in life.
After that we all put into a hamper for her, one year we forgot the quality street and she soon told us that we had forgotten the sweets, she had a decidedly wicked glint in her eye; we soon got her a tin and never forgot again. Granddad we had always got right, he simply wanted just three items, whiskey, socks and aftershave.