Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Grandma's Birthday

This is currently my favourite photo of Grandma.  Is that a snazzy (Grandpa's word) outfit, or what?  I hadn't appreciated what a clothes horse she was until I began writing this blog and collecting photos of her, scanning the photos from her and Grandpa's album.  When I knew her she wore cotton floral dresses with matching necklaces and earrings and what I thought of as 'Grandma shoes'.  Then again, these days, if I'm not wearing trainers I'm most likely wearing 'Grandma shoes'. 

I've had a bit of a resentment about Grandma keeping Daddy's adoption a secret.  Then, just the other night, it occurred to me how much I had in common with Grandma.  She couldn't have children, for whatever reason.  I've never had children either.  I know as much as I do about Grandpa's family history and her family history because of the bits of information she wrote down and tucked into their family Bible.  My Dad didn't keep in touch with his relatives and so the only ones I know now are through my genealogy research.

I know the names of everyone in Grandma's album  because she wrote their names on the photos.  I used to think this was defacing the pictures and she should have written on the back, but I've definitely come to see the wisdom of labelling the front of photos (the one above, a case in point).  Grandma corresponded with her brothers and sisters, then with their children and even grandchildren.  She talked about her family a lot and I grew up hearing names that I've since been able to put with photos and in the family tree.  It's been a very satisfying puzzle to solve.  I can see now that family history was important to her, perhaps because she came so close to having no family future, like I have none. 

For most of the time I remember her, she was increasingly senile.  I saw her as a rather wishy-washy housewife, sometimes a bit smothering in her affections.  From what Mom told me, Grandma always liked my Dad's first wife better, so Grandma had definite opinions at some point.   That said, without fail and certainly without any prompting, everyone at the reunion of Grandma's family mentioned what a nice, lovely person she was.  It makes me sad I didn't have the opportunity to get to know her better as a person, but I suppose while it's possible to become friends with one's parents, we are all that little bit further removed from grandparents. 

Whatever else this adoption business has roughed up in me, it has certainly brought Grandma to the fore of my mind a lot and I've come to realise she was much more complex that I gave her credit for being before. 

One of the housewife-y things she used to do was to knit dishcloths.  I expect Bill will hate them, but I have a feeling I'm going to have to knit myself a couple of dishcloths, just in case there is more value there than I'd previously appreciated.

Happy Birthday, Grandma!


BigLittleWolf said...

Some of my favorite photographs of my own grandparents are from the 1930s as this one seems to be. I love the sense of style, seeing their vitality in the prime of life coming through in an image, and yes - the realization that their lives were (of course) more complex and rich than we, as grandchildren, could ever imagine.

In our age of hyper-mega-social media, I wonder if we are still keeping our tangible (matte and glossy and textured) memories of those we love, and memories for the future.

Loved this post. It makes me think, and remember, and appreciate.

Anonymous said...

it's always interesting how our thoughts about a person change over time. My husband has had a love/hate relationship with his own mother who married 5+ times. But when I heard her life story, I knew why this was the life she lived and in some strange way, I've stuck up for her, even though by the time I knew her she was pretty addled by mixed prescriptions.