My Grandmother’s Celtic Cross

My grandmother's Celtic cross pin

My grandmother’s Celtic cross pin

I’ve written other posts this year about jewelry I received from my maternal grandmother—earrings she bought for me and another heirloom she gave me. Today’s post is about a Celtic cross pin that belonged to my grandmother, which my mother gave me shortly after my grandmother died.  

I don’t know the origins of the pin—whether my grandmother bought it for herself on a trip to Ireland, or whether my mother bought it for her. My grandmother, whom I called Nanny Winnie, relished her Scotch-Irish heritage, and wore the Celtic cross proudly. Nanny Winnie never cared whether it matched her clothes or not, and was as likely to wear it on a purple print blouse as on a green or black sweater that would more clearly highlight its charm. She wore it frequently with blue.

It’s a cheap piece, though pretty. Gold-plated, not gold. A polished bit of blarney stone glued in the middle. But I wear it proudly as well, and I think of my grandmother when I do.

The pin reminds me of my grandmother’s aging, not of her prime. It was the last piece of jewelry she wore.

Nanny Winnie needed first assisted living and then in a nursing home before she died. She suffered from dementia, as her daughter (my mother) does now. Items of clothing and other belongings had a mysterious way of disappearing from Nanny Winnie’s rooms. Finally, my mother took home anything of value, leaving my grandmother only this Celtic cross.

Nanny Winnie’s standards of dress remained firm through most of the progress of her dementia. She had loved to swim all her life, and I remember her in swimsuit and muumuu cover-up when she took her grandchildren to the beach. But other than the beach, she always dressed up when she left her home. Always.

Even as she aged, she didn’t like to wear pants. It wasn’t until near the end of her life (she died at 95) that she could be talked into those velour pantsuits that many older women wear. Through all the years I knew her, she wore a skirt and hose when she went out, even after she moved to assisted living. Her hair had thinned, and she wore a wig (though she had begun that innovation when I was a child, so she wouldn’t have to style her hair after swimming). And she put on this Celtic cross, pinned to whatever blouse or sweater she wore that day.

The last time I saw Nanny Winnie was on a visit to my parents’ home that I made a year or two before she died. On Sunday we picked her up to take her to Mass. She sat in the pew, a little confused by then with all the sitting and standing and kneeling, but she knew it was important to be there. She wore her wig, still as much a part of her dressing as shoes. And she wore this Celtic cross pinned prominently on a blue sweater.

What reminds you of loved ones who have passed on?

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  1. What a beautiful story about your Nanny Winnie, Theresa. I love that she took pride in her appearance. These days I see people out in public and they look like they’re in their pajamas. My grandmother and mother are the same way as your Nanny and that’s something they’ve passed on to me. I won’t even walk to my mailbox to get the newspaper in my robe or pajamas. I really enjoyed this post. 🙂

    • Unfortunately, I did not inherit my grandmother’s penchant for skirts. And I am happy to wear my robe and pajamas to get the newspaper. In summer, I’ll skip the robe.
      Thanks for reading,

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