Grandma Bee’s Hats by Napanee natives is perfect gift for mum

In case you need a reminder, Mother’s day is Sunday, May 9, 2021. After a year that seems endless, this is the perfect time to celebrate our mother figures by showering them with attention and love. Whether near or far, whether we get to visit or not, tokens of our love are always appreciated.

A unique gift for the queens of our lives is the new book Grandma Bee’s Hats, written by Kayla Spand, with beautiful watercolour illustrations by her mother, Debbie Nimigan, both of Napanee.

Doting grandma, Bee, wants to share her love of her favourite fashion accessories with the new generation of ladies in her life. She has always loved dressing to full feather with a matching hat for every outfit and thinks her granddaughters would be just stunning in a favourite hat from her large collection.

However, as each granddaughter receives her special hat, she has her own idea for it that doesn’t include adding it to her wardrobe — Grandma Bee is not sure she approves.

What follows is a sweet and humorous look at intergenerational differences and love.

The collaboration between Debbie Nimigan and her daughter, Kayla Spand, on the book has been a long time dream, “For years, even when the girls were younger, we would talk about writing a book about Grandma Bee because her hats,” she says.

Grandma Bee is based on Nimigan’s Mother-in-law, Bee Nimigan, who, “loved to have a different hat for every outfit and matching shoes. Everything had to coordinate.”

Debbie’s husband, Tim Nimigan, explains, “The interesting thing is that my mom and dad were involved in mission work and lived simply, there wasn’t always a full pay while we were growing up. And so later on, mom always liked to dress as nicely as she could, and one of the aspects of that was having a hat to go with her outfit. She wore hats to church longer than any other lady I know.”

The real Grandma Bee in a hat fit for the queen. Submitted photo.

Tim remembers when his mum, who lived in Mississauga at the time, was asked by her favourite store, Tan Jay, to participate in a fashion show, “She was so excited, just tickled.”

Debbie Nimigan is a retired art teacher who also taught kindergarten for many years. Illustrating a children’s book has been a dream since she was in high school.

“It was one of those bucket lists sort of things, you know?” she says. “So when the pandemic hit we were in lockdown, Kayla, who lives down in California, wrote the storyline and sent it to me and said, ‘Okay mom, now’s the time to do it’.”

The pictures in the book are all of the real Grandma Bee and her granddaughters, explains Debbie.

“It is based in real life, from the sense that these are her real granddaughters and real great granddaughter and what they’re doing in life right now. Kayla worked those details in to make the story.”

Many neat details have been woven into the book: each granddaughter writes a letter to Grandma Bee and the notes are all in the real handwriting of each woman, and each woman’s different locations are pictured from the Rideau Canal skating rink to sunny California.

And each response to receiving a fancy hat showcases the talent and creative thinking of each of Grandma Bee’s granddaughters.

Kayla Spand and Debbie Nimigan. Submitted photo.

On the phone from California, author/daughter Kayla Spand says, “This story has been floating around our dinner table for years where we’ve talked about all of the hats grandma had and how they’d make a great children’s book.

She remembers her Grandma Bee as, “a little bit quirky fun lady who had lots of collections, and of course the hats. She always prioritized not just the fashion, but the attitude that goes with it. We all have memories of not only dressing up, but she taught us the etiquette that goes along with that and correcting our grammar, just a really fun lady.”

Once the pandemic shut downs began, Kayla says she was out of excuses not to write the book, “So I went out on my porch and I just wrote down a rough draft of it and then I called mom and said ‘it’s yours now mom, now you’ve got to illustrate that book you’ve always been talking about.” 

“My mom has always loved children’s books and appreciated really strong illustrations,” Kayla shares. “There’s no young kids in our family, but even now, she’s got three shelves, filled with children’s books that she’s collected over the years from teaching kindergarten and then from our childhood.”

One of Kayla’s favourite parts about Debbie’s illustrations are the honey bees that she has hidden on each page for children to search out. “Whenever grandma would sign a letter she would add a little bee sticker next to her name, so that is just a really fun tribute to her.”

Kayla clearly takes after her mom today, she explains.

“I’ve been filling out hiring paperwork to go teach at the school where my mom previously taught art down here,” she says.

“Both of us went to the same university down here in California and now we both will have taught at the same high school decades apart — me following in my mom’s footsteps.”

Tim Nimigan is head cheerleader of the whole endeavour, casually plugging the book as the perfect Mother’s day gift for just about everyone, “One lady says that she reads it over Zoom to her grandaughter in England, and another person that we know in Hong Kong bought one and had me send it to Winnipeg so that she could read it with her granddaughter. It was nice. Even with the pandemic, grandparents are still finding ways to reach other grandchildren.”

Grandma Bee would be proud.

You can get a copy of the book for $12 at any of the following locations: Home Hardware – Napanee, Ellena’s – Dundas St Napanee, or Books on Main in Bath. Or you can email [email protected] and make arrangements for porch pick up in Napanee or delivery to Kingston and area.

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