Sunday, July 20, 2014
When we were visiting my aunt recently, I spent some time writing down recollections of her childhood and the family because she's the only one of the older generation left on my side and when she's gone, there will be no one left to ask.
I mentioned to her that when I was a little girl, we had a patchwork bedcover that always fascinated me. It was made up of large oblong patches of - in some cases - quite rough tweedy material, cross-stitched over the seams. It wasn't exactly pretty - I remember some of the patches were an orangey brown and some green - but it was interesting. I had mentioned this to my mum a few years ago and she said that an uncle on my dad's side was a traveller for a suiting company and that my (paternal) grandmother used to be given obsolete sample books, out of which she made that cover. Of recent years I've thought of the cover but it's long gone, to my regret.
My aunt said that this uncle had been Uncle Tom, her father's brother. "I've got a couple of those covers," she said. "Would you like them?"
These are made of (I would say) ladies' suiting samples. They're much softer and finer material than ours was, and the patterns of the material are less varied, mainly grey but in one quilt with a certain amount of pink.
They're interesting to me on various counts. For one thing, they were made for a practical purpose - true to (I imagine) the origins of patchwork. She wasn't someone like me trying to create something pretty; she was the wife of a foreman mechanic making cheap, warm bedding for her children. For another, they were made by my granny, the one I didn't really know. Until I was 5, she lived in Edinburgh with my aunt, quite near us, but then my aunt moved down south and Granny went with her. I don't remember her before the move and it's only in recent years that it's seemed odd to me that she would move away from her only grandchildren. I suppose she loved her daughter and didn't want to be separated from her - a feeling I understand. In those days, Cheltenham, where they moved, was a long and difficult drive away - there were no motorways and I was a carsick child. We visited twice and she came up occasionally; but she developed dementia when I was in my early teens and I can't really claim to have known her at all.
Her corners aren't all perfect. It must be genetic. Or maybe she was just busy; and was happy enough to make covers for her children's beds without worrying too much about the aesthetics (though the rather dull materials have been set out with at least a bit of thought, I'd say).
Sorry, kids. More stuff for you to deal with after I'm deceased.
Waving to you, Granny. Sorry we never got to chat.