My Uncle, Johnny, is married to Anna, who is a star when it comes to choosing gifts. Anna and my cousin, Jillian, put together the most wonderful album of old photos and documents from my dad's side of the family and I received a copy of this for Christmas. Jill and I began our family tree making journeys almost simultaneously but she has made huge leaps in terms of gathering information, photos and letters and following leads. Jill is truly the brains of the operation.
When my grandmother, Maisie, died in 2003, it had no impact on me and I'm pretty sure my siblings and cousins would say the same. Our memories of her consist of a)receiving money either wrapped in tissue bound almost impenetrable by sticky tape or taped into one side of a card. She used sticky tape or packing tape for the latter. When she handed out the tissue-wrapped money it was a kind of pot-luck because we'd all get a package but one might have eight two pence pieces in it and another might contain three fifty pence pieces, b)her always having Tanora in the fridge and sadly, in later life, c)needing a lot of home help due to her suffering from dementia.
My dad and his three brothers took great care of their mother and, along with a local lady called Geraldine who did sterling work as home help, they worked out a rota and took turns staying with my grandmother. She liked her own space and had refused her sons' offers of living with any of them.
My memory of my grandmother is of a woman who had no interest in life. Johnny and Anna's gift has turned this view on its head. The pages are filled with photo after photo of a woman who was delighted to be alive, proud of her husband, attentive to her children, in the thick of what was going on around her. I see her knitting out on the road outside her house, I see her arm-in-arm with my grandfather who died before any of his grandchildren were born, I see her dressed up for a night out, I see her wearing jewellery for a special occasion. I see now that the part of her that connected her to life died when her husband, Teddy, did.
It makes me deliriously happy that Maisie had once lived and loved life. The old lady that I had met as my grandmother was a far-removed version of herself.
The new lady I met is far removed from my grandmother. She is the author of one of my favourite blogs, Awfully Chipper. Much as I love reading her blog posts, it was a massive bonus that this woman speaks just as she writes. She is witty, clever and yet really down-to-earth and droll. She blogs under the pen-name (Not) Maud and has led a fascinating life (don't get me wrong, I mean to date, she's really young). If you are not already one of her readers, I would suggest you start at this blog post and then move on to this one. But it's all good anyway, these are only a couple that I particularly enjoyed. My head starts to spin if I try to work out how long it has been since I've had any amount of face-to-face conversation time with an adult that isn't my doctor. The company and discourse equalled sheer pleasure. Before meeting in person (Not) Maud and I had had online exchanges through a blogging group in which I received help with aspects of blogging that I found difficult. If it weren't for this woman and others in that group I would not have attempted to include the above links in this post. Should grief ever cause me to seem to my grandchildren as my grandmother, Maisie, seemed to me, (Not) Maud will have played a part in keeping this record of a woman who was interested in life for my descendants. Some day someone may think of this album of musings the way I think of the album I received this Christmas.