I lie in bed looking across the room at my favourite photo
Two children sit on a swing. They’re not wearing ‘swing clothes’ – she’s in a white embroidered dress, he is also in white – both dressed in their best – she even wears a dark straw hat with a white ribbon – this is a pose for a special occasion .
The girl has turned, smiling, to look at the photographer, she looks calm, happy, and remarkably at ease considering she has quite a large child of about 6 sitting on her lap facing her, his long legs dangling behind her. She is very pretty
In contrast to her obvious enjoyment of the situation, as a bit of a joke, he looks disgruntled, almost sullen Why does he have to sit on her lap? He’s not a baby He’s been asked to pose – which he does, with a bad grace, poor kid. She, on the other hand, has entered into the pose, enjoying the moment as she turns to smile.
She is Margaret, the youngest of three, the beloved baby of the family. She occasionally plays with Bob, this little boy from next door, but more often with her three imaginary friends of her own age: Nurse Fern, Bermaline and Pavement.! They are good company – the four of them have a lively time most days – . I can’t imagine what they get up to, but I know they get on famously together!
Being friendly and sociable, she often chats to strangers.. On her way to school she stops to talk to the old road-mender who sleeps all night by the hole in the road, huddled beside a glowing brazier. She asks him what he has for breakfast and he replies ‘a bit of wind on a skewer’. She is intrigued, hardly daring to disbelieve him. We have used that phrase in our family for over eighty years – such was its fascination for her child’s imagination.
Some days she walks home with another boy from school. They pass by a baker’s shop., gaze longingly at the cakes and yummy buns in the window.
He dares her to go in and ask how much the halfpenny buns are. She does. The woman behind the counter opens her mouth to reply, then realises what this cheeky child has said and cries ‘Be off with you, out of my shop!’ They run off giggling.
This picture is precious: my Mother hardly changed all her life – my description of her on the swing at about 10 years old in 1916 would be true at 70. Her openness, her joy in life, her calm accepting nature, her friendliness and love of the curious and comical always remained. Everyone loved her.
When she died in 1980 she left 17 grandchildren all of whom had happy memories of her welcoming home, her ever-ready stews and ginger pudding and her almost unending patience with the constant intrusion into her life of one rowdy family or another. Widowed for 25 years after an unshakeably happy marriage, she gave all her time and attention to the little ragamuffins she had wished on the world, zooming about in her little Daf, even going to Australia for 6 months, visiting us all.
Thanks, Mum, for your life, for Nurse Fern, Bermaline and Pavement and for your legacy of love and laughter.
Mother’s Day 2019