Wednesday, 17 August 2011
The Gallery: Black and White memories
This picture is of my grandmother. It's the only picture of her I have from when she was young, and I love it. She was born in 1912, and I think she's probably in her 20s here, so that makes it a 1920s portrait. From the hair and the fur stole, that looks about right.
She was the youngest of seven children. Can I just say that again? Seven children. That was quite a normal family size then. And it would have been eight, because she had a twin brother, who died when he was a baby. She outlived all of her siblings, dying in 2004 at the age of 92. But the last 20 or so years of her life were tough - she had a major stroke in her late sixties, and was totally paralysed down her left side. Before the stroke, she was a talented amateur painter, who I remember driving around in her Mini with a bevy of Pekingese dogs. Afterwards, she was fragile and walked with a stick. She was unable to paint, or even to hold a cup of tea properly, but she remained cheerful and positive, making friends with a whole new set of people at 'Stroke Club' and even travelling out to see us in Hong Kong.
As well as losing her daughter, my mother, when she was an old lady - a huge blow from which I think she never recovered - my grandmother was also widowed in her 60s, when my grandfather died of a heart attack. I was two at the time and I don't remember him. Until a few years ago, I knew little about him, other than that he had been serious, fairly religious and a conscientious objector in the War. But then a few years ago, my sister and I were given a stack of old letters - my grandparents' love letters from before they were married. They revealed a very passionate relationship - he absolutely worshipped her and they simply could not wait to be together. Here he is below. Rather handsome, I think?
I remembered then something that my grandmother told me when I got engaged. She looked at my ring, with its sparkling single diamond, and said that she remembered how her own engagement ring used to sparkle under the lights of the London Underground. She would look at it constantly, she said, admiring its gleam, and thinking how lucky she was to be engaged. I knew exactly how she felt. It was one of those moments of real connection when you almost see across the decades, and realise that the little old lady who you think of as 'Grandma' was once just like you.
This post is for The Gallery at Sticky Fingers, where you will find many other beautiful black and white photographs today.