Wednesday, 8 April 2009
This is my grandmother Rachel (pron. the French way, Rah-shell) with my Tante Mimi, in 1913. And here she is again in 1955, looking very modern, in one of the simple patterned frocks that I remember so well. Every time she came to stay with us, and unpacked her holiday dresses, I noticed how wonderful they smelled, so particular to her. It was years later, in fabric shops, that I realised what the smell was - new fabric, especially satinised cotton - and from then on, I associate that lovely odour and small prints of new cloth with my beloved Bonma.
I am often struck by how much change my grandmother's generation experienced. She was born in the early 1890s and died in the 1980s, aged 96; she used the early models of telephones, and witnessed the moon landings. Her clothes alone tell so much: from full length dresses and buttoned boots, worn with long pinned-up hair, to the pastel matching coat and dress sets she favoured in her later years, hair neatly permed. She lived through two World Wars, enduring both enemy occupation and intense Allied bombing, coming through it all as strong and as energetic as ever, and always fiercely pro-British (two of her sisters came over to Selkirk in Scotland during the 1st World War, having heard that there was a need for land girls to help on the farms). She was a superb cook, and a ferociously clean housekeeper. She laughed and cried easily, was sentimental and sporadically religious, relishing a regular trip to Lourdes for some unspecified malady or other. She had fat little handbags that were always overstuffed - and we watched out for the inevitable bursting and spilling of astonishing contents. She loved a game of cribbage with my father, although neither learned to speak the other's language, and she spoiled and favoured me quite outrageously. Which I loved. My mother had very mixed feelings about her, and no doubt bore the month-long visits with occasional lapses of patience - I remember argumentative conversations - but I wanted her to stay for ever.
Posted by rachel at 10:32