The Fragility of Life
This piece is dedicated to those Nanny cherished most: her sister Sharon Myers-Bradley and her brother Harry Myers, and their respective spouses, John Bradley and Lois Myers, all of St. Patrick’s Road, Prince Edward Island.
My Nanny once lived in a beautiful, robin-egg blue home on the corner of Fort Augustus and Mount Stewart. It was the home in which she raised my father, his four siblings, and, arguably, her six grandchildren. Many children of our area, most of whom are now adults, have some sort of claim to 1314 Mount Stewart Road in their hearts. The relationship I had with her and that home is something I will treasure forever.
Once we had all grown, time intervened to take its toll on her mobility and independence, and it was time to disassemble and rearrange what we had considered familiar. It was time to sell our homestead.
When her property went up on the market, Nanny decided to have a yard sale. Things were sorted, transferred, and thrown out accordingly. One item was a beautiful table that my Nanny used for sewing and ironing her clothes. On one end of the table, the distinctive, unforgiving scorch of a clothing iron blemished the otherwise perfect wood.
My Nanny was a woman of expertise. Delicate measurements in her baking, precision in her gardens, and professionalism behind the pedal of a sewing machine were characteristics I could only hope to someday inherit. Knowing that Nanny was a very cautious lady, I found the iron mark as hilarious as I did baffling. I remember laughing as I ran my hand over the age-old scorch and asked her, “Were you having a hard day?”
She laughed at me and said that she was. She paused momentarily and said, “You know, that mark wasn’t my fault. It was yours.”
She told me that one day, many years ago, a much smaller version of myself sped around our home pretending to do all that Nanny did. When she stepped away from her laundry, I picked up her clothing iron. After running the smooth, hot, metal contraption over her clothing, I lay the iron plate-down on the table.
When my Nanny found the iron, she took a moment to thank God that I hadn’t burned down the house and then made the executive decision to never tell anyone what I had done. She took full responsibility for ruining the table while I ran around the house, still giggling and playing in the sunshine of that loving and venerable home.
Anyone who inquired about the mark in the years to come was greeted with a “never you mind.”
What she may not have known then was that this would be a lesson in kindness and patience that I still carry closely with me today. When I asked her why she didn’t tell my parents or even scold me, her explanation to me that day was simple: “Your feelings were more important than a table.”
We are quick to blame, faster to hate, and swiftest to forget that we are human, too. We are capable of inflicting the worst of us unto others. We are capable of making others feel unwelcome.
Reach for patience. Strive for understanding. Insist on leniency. Eliminate all macro-characteristics of a scenario and boil it down to the fact that we are all unmistakably and beautifully human beings, capable of feeling and awareness.
My Nanny would never believe that merely forgetting the incident would make me better. I was irresponsible, careless, and reckless. In every way, I deserved to be scolded. To what she measured her anger against, I’m unsure. I like to believe, however, that she measured her anger and impatience against love.
So, the next time you catch yourself ready to spit hate and call war; the next time hate makes your mouth water with ill-intended words of racism or bigotry; the next time your body quakes with unforgiveness and a deafening rage like an explosive to another’s well-being and peace of mind:
Just take the iron off the table.
In absolute and ever-lasting loving memory of Helen Patricia “Pat” (nee Myers) MacKinnon, her husband Bertram “Bertie” P. MacKinnon, and their beloved granddaughter, Nikola Helen Murphy.