My friend Annie came back from Bruges last weekend, bringing me some of my childhood-favourite milk chocolate, Cote d'Or.
And opening it tonight, I was taken back immediately to those years during the 1950's and '60's when my beloved grandmother, Bonma, would come from her home in Ghent, to stay with us for a month or so. She only came if we lived somewhere accessible, i.e. Europe or Britain, and looking back, I can see that such lengthy visits might have been a trial to my mother, but to me, she could never stay too long. I loved her intensely, and longed for her to stay with us for ever.
Her suitcases, like her handbags, were always filled to bursting, and were crammed with items of interest and delight. We revelled in watching her unpack, knowing that in due course, treats and presents would emerge. Her crisp dresses, always in a small dark print, had the most wonderful clean scent, and one that I associated as unique to her. Until adulthood, that is, when one day, standing in a fabric shop, I suddenly recognised it for what it was, new glazed cotton. Of course! she always had new dresses for her special holidays amongst the grandchildren.... The smell of new cotton can evoke Bonma as vividly as her photograph.
In addition to her busy, lively, opinionated person and my somewhat put-upon young adopted aunt, Tante Agnes, she always brought us a whole salami from the Ardennes, and several bars of Cote d'Or chocolate, to be eked out amongst us for the duration of her visit as the utterly delectable treats they were.
I can't remember the last time I cut into a whole salami, but the occasional bar of Cote d'Or is more readily come by, especially if kind friends remember my nostalgia for it. In its lovely old cream wrapper, it sends me back to special times in childhood as though they were yesterday. Thank you, Annie, for your thoughtful gift and the memories it conjures up with it.