A Jolly ‘oliday with Miss B by
(15 Stories)

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My grandmother was an important person in my childhood. We saw her at least once a week when we picked her up on our way to church and then brought her home with us for Sunday dinner and the afternoon together. Her life revolved around the family, the church, and many friends. She also had another life that I heard about but never saw. Every other year or so she would go away for the summer, which sometimes stretched from May to November, to go back to her other home. She had left Scotland as a young adult but seemed to always have one foot in each country. When she came back from these trips she spoke with an accent that still warms my heart when I hear it from anyone and told stories of her sisters and other relatives and friends, stories of castles, islands, ships, woolens, exotic food. These people were figures in my imagination based on her descriptions, who never appeared in the flesh. Some of them did regularly send folded blue single-sheet airmail letters to my mother (cheap postage for international airmail was important) and my Great Aunts sent packages that arrived for my birthday and Christmas each year. In the 1950s trans-Atlantic commercial air travel was not an option and those who managed to go to Europe took ocean liners on voyages that lasted at least five days.

Most of my grandmother’s friends lived nearby but sometimes one would come a distance and stay with her for a longer visit. Miss B was a friend who came for such holidays. They had met on the ship during one of my grandmother’s ocean crossings and arranged to travel on the same ship in later years, This lady did not fit the pattern of any other adults I knew. Like my grandmother she had lived in Scotland as a child and had the same accent. By the time I met her she lived in New York in what sounded like a pretty big house. She was very good at talking to me even though I was a young child and most adults did not know much about the things I was interested in. She had two little girls but she was not their mother or a relative to them. She said she was their nanny.

That was a strange idea to me because nobody I knew then had a nanny. In those day my friends were cared for by their parents or other relatives along with sometime babysitters. Now nannies are one of the child care options for busy parents and some of those I have met seem to share the best qualities of Miss B.


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Characterizations: moving


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Your grandmother sounds lovely, Jean and nice that she had made a friend from her own country. I was in my 20s when I first encountered an “au pair”, traveling with my cousins who lived in Geneva, Switzerland. I had never heard of the term until they visited the US in 1980 and brought one along to care for their 2 year old. There are all sorts of childcare. We just didn’t necessarily know about it.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    Miss B sounds like that perfect nanny, Mary Poppins. I think my kids are still searching for her. For my grandkids in town, I guess I’m the nanny. Not exotic, but totally in love with what they do (most of the time).

  3. Jean. what lovely memories of your Scottish grandmother and her generation!
    I remember both my grandmothers and think about them everyday, however
    my husband Danny never knew hIs and for him it’s a great deprivation. His parents fled Nazi Germany in the late 30s leaving their own parents to unknown fates.
    Treasure your memories!

  4. How wonderful that you have such strong memories of your grandmother and her Scottish brogue….I imagine just hearing a brogue today brings a smile to your face, or maybe a tear. I always find it moving when a sensory memory like that brings the person back into such sharp relief. For me its the scent of my grandmother’s lilac soap.

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