My Grandmother’s Table

AishaSo excited today, wonderful Guest Blog from an amazing woman who is my very dear friend and colleague.  Aisha Hannibal and I met through Women in Power and now work together on The Red Tent Directory website.  It’s such a pleasure to work with Aisha.  She is a woman with a big heart and an amazing spirit of openness and generosity. Aisha is also interested in the wisdom of Grandmothers and we hope in future to work together on this in future as well.

I’m in my shorts and an old t-shirt and I am sanding the square wooden table in my kitchen. It’s my first time using a power sander and didn’t quite realise the amount of mess it would make. I am laughing at myself as I see dust on every hair on my arm and wondering if this would have been a better job to do outside as the window clouds over with yellow.

As the wood peels away to reveal a fresh new layer I am thinking about all the times I have sat at this table and the secrets of thoughts, and the grubby handprints of art projects, spilled wine and ink stains. These marks turn to dust and cover the kitchen in a thin layer as the
stories they hold infuse into my thoughts.

I made biscuits on this table with my grandma, they were called handful biscuits
because she measured the ingredients by scooping handfuls of flour and butter, intuitive of the right amount from memory. I can see her face in my mind the day we made the biscuits and can feel the awe I had for her in that moment.

This is her table and I honour her every mealtime with my own cooking and moments of calm. Aisha TableI teach at this table and sew and draw. All of these things she did herself in her life and the legacy goes on or not so much legacy but the celebration of daily creative things continues.

She was an artist, a painter and taught at Slade school of fine art but for me she made bread, she saved old pieces of card under the rug and made me birthday cards with glitter. Through my life I have tried hard to achieve something, be someone, take on roles, show up
when its hard and make my mum proud. But funny to think that my heart lights up when I remember these touches of magic rather than the wider woman of majesty that she was in
the world.

She was a working woman, someone who didn’t follow the call of the librarian or secretary that women of her era were funnelled into regardless of varied interest and skill. She followed her heart, followed what she loved most in the world. This is no easy thing as I am finding out. It’s like drawing a bucket from the depths of a well into the bright light of day and hoping that you can water all your seedlings to life. She did what she loved. She painted and she painted
and she loved to paint. Flowers, trees, stormy skies, and her lesson was that she sat down at the canvas and painted around the white that she left clear. A dance between colour, shape and that which holds it all in place. There is something so wise in this that I am not sure I
fully get it yet, but its the difference between trying to do something and waiting for it to reveal itself.

When I was young I just wanted to skip my youth and adulthood and fast forward to the years of grey hair and eyes sparkling with stories of a life lived, for me it always seemed the best bit was yet to come. It’s good to have the table to remind me that its not about the grandeur of
achievement but warm biscuits cooling in time for tea that really stays with the senses and the heart. For me its the wisdom of being how we are and loving that part most.

But it doesn’t mean it was easy. She struggled in life with the mundanity of cooking, mothering and daily chores when all she wanted
to do was paint. But there is something special that happens to a woman when she grows older that softens the internal battles and
allows her to just be full of love as a grandma. As a child I had an insatiable appetite for love, it was not sweets I filled my belly with
but love, from everywhere, it seemed the only thing that made sense and she gave it with wild abandon. She was strong and solid and a
great support to my mum throughout her marriage which gave me peace at times of difficulty.

When she became ill I saw an unknown part of her vulnerability because there was not a day in my life I had seen her in bed and I faltered at the words to say. In my mind I have stood at her bedside and written a narrative of the words of love, the thanks, the questions and everything that I could have said. At the time I just starred and felt ashamed. I hope she knew what was in my heart then and over the years when I have spoken to her inside.

It seems apt that her father, a lifelong astronomer, couldn’t resist calling her Stella, because she did shine from the inside and I wonder sometimes the super nova that she might have been if she had not chosen the route of a husband and family to really follow her heart.
But maybe thats the true lesson I can live in my own way, to feel the parts of me that millions of years ago came from the stars and fuse it together for myself.

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