Ruby, my advice to you is: You are a beautiful girl, both inside and out. Follow your dreams and enjoy your special bat mitzvah day.
Linda Susan Wantman is my wonderful Grandma. She was born on May 13th, 1946 and spent most of her childhood in Cheshire as her father was sent by his London-based employer to be a director of a branch there.
Grandma had no siblings but remembered fondly that she did have a goldfish and a dog, Taffy.
Her mum, Naomi Bentley, was very intelligent and attended school at the Lycee Francais to learn Spanish and French. She then went on to work but stopped to raise Grandma from when she was born until she was 16 or 17. Then Naomi took on a volunteer position at a hospital where she would walk around in a white coat and people called her ‘professor Bentley’. Her mum’s nickname for Grandma when she was young was ‘Troub’. Her family used to say that if you added an ‘le’ it would be ‘trouble’!
Her father, Edward Bentley, known as Ted, fought in the Second World War for five years, all over the Far East. This had a strong effect on him and the rest of his life. Before he went in, he was studying optics and worked with scientific instruments as he did his entire life. Grandma was keen to convey to me that he had some quite old fashioned ideas for example that men should be the breadwinners not the women. When it came to children his favourite expression was “children should be seen and not heard”, as Grandma grew up with this she came to accept it. She remembers that Ted was very strict and that while she never punished at school she was frequently punished at home. Thankfully she never enforced this dated (almost Victorian attitude) on her children and grandchildren, which I am eternally grateful for!
At the age of four she attended a primary school called Etchells in Cheadle, Cheshire and remained there until she was eleven. My Grandma then went to Cheadle Grammar School for Girls, until the age of 13 when she transferred to Orange Hill school in Edgware. My Grandma strongly recalls the boys at her school being horrid as they used to steal the girls’ purple berets. I found this particularly funny as I have two brothers and I am used to their teasing but I can imagine that as Grandma didn't have siblings this may have come as a shock to her. Due to this, despite my eminent persuasion that siblings are NOT a blessing in disguise she still wishes she had siblings.
Grandma was born shortly after the war and it affected her life enormously. The food was on ration and you had to sign for everything. Apparently you were only allowed one egg per week. Her Dad frequently talked about the war and his experiences travelling the world. Grandma observed that he kind of bragged about it. He would tell incredible stories about being knifed, or thrown off a train, and also that he was awarded a captaincy for life. However, Grandma felt that really he was just putting on a brave face to cover the atrocities he had seen at a very young age. When Grandma saw Ted in hospital just before he died he cried a lot and repeated the same line “I was just a child – I was 19 years old and I should never have seen what I saw.” This must have been a shocking experience for Grandma and it gives some perspective to how much his war experiences had impacted him and the family.
When Grandma grew older she rebelled by marrying an American - her parents were not happy about this (for fear of losing her to America). Grandpa Mayer or Mayer Wantman was that man, and they lived in America for six years. In the year 1967, they got married at The Galleon Club which was on the Thames in South West London. At the time Grandma was one week away from being 21, and Grandpa Mayer was 27. I can’t believe how young she was but apparently this was normal back then! They had a lovely lifetime together and had four wonderful children; Adam, Elizabeth, Simon and Paula (my mum). Grandma trained and practiced as a psychoanalytic psychologist for many years. My Grandad was diagnosed with cancer and sadly passed away at the young age of 62. Although I have never met him I feel strongly that he is still my grandfather and I know he is guiding me and the rest of us. My Grandma tells my cousins and I that he would be very proud of the people we have become. This means everything to me.
Grandma has been through some tough life experiences - having no siblings, having a very strict upbringing, surviving the loss of her life partner - but she has persevered and remained optimistic throughout which is a huge inspiration for me. I hope to become someone as dependable as her when I make my mark. She is someone I feel I have a close connection to and someone who has a deep compassion and empathy for other people and who I love talking to. She is a remarkable, motivating woman and will continue to be. Thank you Grandma for all you have done for us!