My hero never wore a stereotypical cape. With her gardening gloves in one hand and coffee mug in the other, my grandma, Kathleen McKnight, embodied everything that I strove to be when I grew up.
She was raised on a meagre dairy farm in the 1930s, when money was scarce and something as simple as listening to the radio was considered a sign of splendour. After graduating school, she became a teacher. She began her career by teaching students who were only a few years younger than herself. I can only imagine how outstanding a teacher my grandmother would have been, as even in the time that I spent with her, her value of knowledge and natural curiosity shone through like a glittering sunset over the ocean.
The life lessons I learned in the thirteen years that I was lucky enough to spend with my grandma were beyond comparison. From something as simple as remaining humble in the face of success, to proper bird watching techniques, I was always eager to soak up the knowledge my grandma handed out. Looking back, it seems that during that defiant pre-teen stage most kids go through, she was the only person whom I truly respected and actually listened to. Since I was the youngest of six grandchildren, she seemed to be quite experienced in that particular phase. No matter how hard I tried, I learned pretty quickly that she would not take any of my rebellious nonsense. Ultimately, my grandmother was someone who gained respect not through harsh words and retribution, but through her quiet, subdued personality, and of course, the occasional stern glare.
One of my most cherished memories with my grandma occurred under less than ideal circumstances. I was in Grade 3, an enthusiastic teacher’s pet, and determined to outshine my peers with what I believed were superior speech, writing and presenting skills. However, much to my dismay, my stomach didn’t seem quite as eager as my brain. My class was preparing to make the long journey to our school library, where we would be saying our speeches in front of a crowd of parents, grandparents, and other students. Suddenly, I felt the bile creep up my throat in a sickening rush. To my horror, the waffles that I had devoured for breakfast quickly ended up splayed in front of me, in a mess of stomach-churning vomit. Despite feeling absolutely mortified, I still insisted on reciting my speech, as I knew that my grandma would be enthusiastically watching from the front row.
After I wearily delivered my speech on the wonders of lighthouses, my grandma met me with her famous bright smile and a warm, soothing hug. Within minutes, she had ushered me toward her car, and instead of being stuck at school, my day took a turn for the better. I got to spend the remainder of it at grandma’s house. Once I was nestled in blankets on her vintage floral couch and snacking on some heavenly apple pie, she brought out a worn, black scrapbook, which, quite frankly, looked like it should belong in a museum. Nevertheless, as she flipped through the tattered pages, I found myself mesmerized by the stories she told me of her childhood. From tales of quarrels with her sister, to her wedding day, I spent the afternoon listening attentively to every word my grandma said. I was completely encapsulated by her sheer knowledge and grace, and felt honoured to know that I was the only one, of all of her children and grandchildren, she had shared this remarkable keepsake with.
As children, we never truly appreciate the influence that our elders hold over us. Personally, I never discerned that my grandma’s values of kindness, honesty and knowledge would follow me into my teenage years. However, I now realize that every moment I spent with her, my grandmother was leading by example, whether she was aware of it or not.
Now, almost ten years after that cherished day, when I open the tattered black scrapbook that I inherited, I can reflect on the beautiful memories I have of my grandma, and I can only hope that some day, I can pass those same values down to my own children and grandchildren.
About the Author
Tasha Reynolds is currently a Grade 11 student at Listowel District Secondary School.
She lives on a farm with her parents, older brother and two house cats. In her free time, Tasha enjoys reading, 4-wheeling, and spending time in nature. She also spends the majority of the summer and fall competing in 4-H dairy shows, and has done so since the age of two. In the future, she hopes to attend university to eventually become either a veterinarian or a psychologist.