My sister and I cleaned out upstairs in our 93 year old aunt’s house. It was a bit weird because, as my sister pointed out, normally you do this kind of thing after someone dies but she was just downstairs. She’s moved her bedroom downstairs and doesn’t really come upstairs any more. Physically, she’s pretty well but she had a TIA a couple of years ago which means that mentally she is only alright. I mean she is alright, she’s living at home with support and she recognises us all and can chat and read the papers but her short term memory is pretty poor.
My aunt moved into the house – next door to my parents – about 40 years ago and, to be fair to her, she did a pretty thorough job of getting rid of stuff from the old house which was where she had lived with her mother and aunts and uncles. There were hardly any things left. My granny’s engagement ring, the (silver?) Douglas golf club trophy which my uncle Tommy won in 1930 and a couple of old photos and letters.
I remember my mother telling me that this was a picture of my father at school in South Pasadena, California in the late 1920s or early 1930s. I can’t find him in it but the clothes look right, I suppose, and that is certainly not Irish sunshine that the children are squinting into.
There is a description my mother began writing of our last family holiday together. She seems to have run out of steam about the time we got on the ferry which is…disappointing. However, not before pointing out that she wanted to follow a particular signpost for the ferry in the port but my father said to ignore it as these things are made for idiots and the obvious way to go was straight ahead. Sadly, history does not reveal who was right but I feel, somehow, that it was unlikely to have been my father.
My great uncle Dan’s pretty well-photographed trip to the continent in 1924 has survived as has his graduation picture. Here he is feeding the pigeons in Venice. Stay tuned for his time in Zermatt.
My great aunt Cecilia – some of whose things I have in my own house – is looking pretty jaunty in this picture from July 1921, an otherwise quiet time in Irish affairs etc. I was extremely keen to name the Princess Cecilia, even as a middle name, but was balked by husband’s point blank refusal to countenance such a thing. Alas.
My grandmother and grandfather look very young and happy in this picture. Especially my granny who by common consent was hilarious, if you were a grown up. I only knew her as a child though – she died when I was 12 or so – and I found her a bit formal and remote. I am assured that she adored me but I think she was not particularly interested in children and found grown ups more entertaining. And who could blame her?
I will not be taking questions on this at this time but for various reasons some of my parents’ stuff ended up in my aunt’s house. This, I assume, is why my mother’s piano exam results from 1946 has been preserved there. God, she hated learning the piano. She spoke about it with great bitterness; apparently the nun who taught her would rest her hands on my mother’s and every time my mother played a wrong note, the nun would dig into her with her nails. But look it got short term results – first class honours. Not sure that the long term legacy was exactly what her parents were hoping for.
There’s a picture of me aged 15 with the exact same hairstyle as I have now but, you know, a bit more slender and fresh faced. I’ve cut my brother out as, I understand, the internet never forgets and I’m not sure he wants to be remembered in his bowl haircut and Ghostbusters jumper. When I showed this picture to Daniel, he was shocked, “I sort of expected you to be wearing the same clothes you wear now, not real 80s clothes.” There you go. I wasn’t making up living through the 80s.
It’s so funny the things that survive and get passed down and the enormous bulk of things that disappear. I guess that’s the way it goes but it is strangely dismal how much is just gone forever.