Don’t cringe but I loved Halloween when I was little. I was first introduced to it in primary school when a classmate and her family returned to Brisbane from the US and brought back with them the notion of celebrating Halloween. You can dress up? There are games? And lollies? I’m in.
Halloween polarises Australians. Mostly because people think it’s yet another American tradition we’ve adopted. (Actually, it’s not – it’s English). But for me, Halloween conjures up happy memories of friends, of crepe paper costumes and of my Nanna. In reality I think my Nanna only stayed with us once over Halloween and yet she is part of the Aladdin’s Cave of memories in my head. Nanna adjusting my witch’s costume and helping me perfect my cackle.
I didn’t grow up with Grandparents. They had all died by the time I was two. But my Great Aunty Ann took on the role of Nanna. And even though she lived in Sydney and I only got to see her once or twice a year, her presence is infused into my childhood. I still have the enormous bride doll she posted to me for my fourth birthday. The handwritten letters. The Snoopy brooch. It was Nanna who coaxed me into eating cauliflower as a vegie-hating child and it’s Nanna I totally blame for a ten-year (now cured) addiction to Days of Our Lives. It was her favourite show and I was allowed to sit with her and watch it if I didn’t bombard her with questions the entire time.
My Nanna’s been gone for over twenty years but I am reminded of the important role she played in my life every time I see Ava revelling in the attention and love of her own grandparents. Grandpa delights her with stories and songs. Gran takes her to the beach and together they build sand castles and search for shells. Nonna draws with her and does jigsaws and takes her to the park.
Next Sunday, 7 November, is the first ever Grandparents Day. It’s a day to celebrate and acknowledge the amazing role that so many grandparents are playing in the lives of their grandchildren. We don’t thank them enough particularly when you consider how many grandparents have taken on the role of day care providers – essentially raising small children all over again. Sure they do it out of love but let’s not pretend it’s not exhausting.
Grandparents Day is also for non-Grandparents – those people in our lives who technically aren’t grandparents but who are happily playing that role: neighbours, adopted grandparents, other older relatives (like my Nanna). They’re all there offering their wisdom and helping struggling parents fill in the gaps.
A whole slew of activities will be happening at the Southbank Piazza next Sunday from 10am until 2pm. Inter-generational games. Sausage sizzles. It’s the perfect way to say thank you to all the Grandpas, Grandads, Pas, Grans, Nans, Grandmas, Nonnas and Nannas out there who are doing such a great job.