When I think about “love”, my mind is immediately drawn to my paternal grandmother Reva Tomlinson.
I am the eldest of three girls, but not the eldest granddaughter on my father’s side of the family. Grandma Tomlinson always wanted to have a daughter but she only had two sons, my father being her youngest. I had a special place in my grandmother’s heart and she in mine. I enjoyed spending time with her even into my teenage years.
My high school, Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute, was located near the street my grandparents lived on. There were times when I would walk along Brookdale Avenue, toward their home and the burdens of the day would slip away. Grandma would welcome me in and of course I would be offered some milk and cookies. Grandma loved to bake and she would have at least three tins of different cookies. She stored her cookie tins in the back porch, which was unheated. Sometimes I would be invited to stay for supper and then later my grandfather would drive me home.
One time I stayed at their home for two weeks while my parents went abroad since it was close to my high school. My younger sisters stayed at our home and were cared for by my maternal grandparents as they needed to be close to their elementary school. I even went to my uncle’s cottage with Grandma and Grandpa Tomlinson for a couple of days. I loved spending time with them and hearing their stories. Although, to my chagrin, I did complain to my dad on occasion that I had heard those stories repeated too many times. At the time I thought I would always remember every detail since I heard them so often. I wish that I had taken the time to record those stories in some form other than trying to rely solely on my memory.
I remember one time as a young preteen wanting to make Grandma beautiful for when Grandpa came home from work. For special occasions or when she was going out Reva wore rouge and face powder, which she allowed me to use on her. I also chose some clip-on earrings for her to wear with a matching necklace and even a broach. I can remember Grandpa playing along and commenting on how beautiful she looked, even if she was a tad overdressed!
Grandma loved to sew and when I was younger she sewed me and my dolls matching outfits. Reva made all her own clothes including her matching hats as she had once worked as a milliner. I loved to watch her sew and when I was old enough I asked her to teach me to sew. My mother had the same sewing machine and I was not allowed to touch it, but my grandmother took the time to teach me one-on-one. I also took sewing at school in junior high and later at summer school. I remember going to a fabric store with my grandparents to pick out some special polyester blend that I could use to make some outfits. That was in the seventies so that type of fabric was all the rage!
Grandma made each of the six grandchildren a traditional quilt and a yo-yo quilt. I remember one time my grandmother gave me some rather explicit advice to not let my husband love me on top of the yo-yo quilt as it would crush it. Grandma had a healthy view of the conjugal relationship and on occasion she did slip in some comments. She just said this so nonchalantly but as usual I was quite embarrassed.
My grandparents sold their home on Brookdale Avenue and moved to an apartment in Scarborough. We also moved from Willowdale to Downsview and I changed high schools for my final two years. If I wanted to visit my grandparents now I needed to take the TTC or get a drive with my parents. My grandfather passed away and Grandma stayed on in the apartment until she could no longer cook for herself. Reva was moved into the nursing home part of the complex, Shepherd Manor, where she could eat in a dining room with other seniors. Her move and further downsizing coincided with my family’s recent move to a bigger house and my upcoming marriage.
Grandma gave me her sewing machine and some money as a wedding gift. She had instructed me to trade in the sewing machine and add the money in order to purchase a newer fancier sewing machine. I could not bring myself to do it. I thought about all the clothes and other articles she had sewn with this machine and that if she was able to do all that with this machine then I would use it too. One time when I brought the machine in for service the serviceman said that it is a great machine and will keep working well as long as I maintain it. I have sewn many clothes for myself and my family as well as other items. I have used some of the attachments such as the buttonholer and the zipper foot but there are some fancier ones that I have yet to use.
The final item my grandmother gave me was her engagement ring. I didn’t receive it until after she had passed away. Grandma had noticed that I did not have an engagement ring and she told me that when she died she wanted me to have it. I had the ring resized as it was too big and now I wear that ring only on special occasions as I want to preserve it.
One day I thought about some of the items I have from Grandma Tomlinson and I was overwhelmed by the love that each item represented. Grandma passed on the love of a spouse; the love of family; the love of cooking and baking; the love of sewing; and the love of God. Grandma prayed for our family to come to know Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and she rejoiced when we did come to faith. I know that one day I will see her again and what a day of rejoicing that will be!