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.

21 comments:

A Modern Mother said...

What a beautiful post. I love that time period, and learning more about people then. I also love when there is a connection like that with the engagement ring. I wear my grandmother's engagement ring, and I didn't change the setting at all when I got it because I can remember admiring it when I was a little girl.

Iota said...

Beautiful post.

I also recently read a letter from a forebear, my great grandmother's sister, which I am also going to post about soon. I just seem to be following your posts a step behind at the moment!

Kelloggsville said...

Thats really truly lovely.

this is us said...

Thats a beautiful story, your Grandma sounds quite an amazing lady, and I love the bit about the ring, reminds you that we all share alot of the same experiences. Nat

Funky Wellies said...

A moving post. What a life your grandmother had! Love the photos too, I never tire looking at old photo albums.

1978rebecca said...

What a fantastic story and such glamorous photographs!

The syders said...

Such a beautiful post and lovely photo's of your Grandparents. How fab to have their old love letters!

Nota Bene said...

That's fabulous...truly beautiful...and I can see you in her...

Elsie Button said...

such a wonderful story, and how lovely that you got to see the love letters. beautiful pics x

Circles in the Sand said...

A beautiful and touching post Alex xxx

mumsarcade said...

First one this week to make me cry.
Since losing my Mum a couple of years ago, I reflect far more on life and death and what it all means.
I think it is that if we have children we carry on in them and somehow your post reminded me of that so thank you

About Last Weekend said...

Beautiful photos. There is something of the photos in that day which had more clarity and depth. Your grandmother is so elegant and stylish - wow. And love hearing about her life...seven children is almost unbelievable..

geekymummy said...

Beautiful post! I can relate to your grandma admiring her sparkly ring. I do the same when I sit in dull meetings!

nappy valley girl said...

Thanks everyone! I am glad you enjoyed this post. And now there will be radio silence for a few weeks...it's time for the Great Canadian Roadtrip to begin! x

Mud said...

That's so lovely. My granny (similar vintage) was a wonderfully feisty woman until she started suffering a series of minor strokes last year at 92. I hate to see her diminished, but remember the tremendous life and character she has had, and given me too.

Mwa said...

Lovely post. I am making friends with a few of the grannies at the school gates just now, and that too makes me realise that older people are just younger people who have lived a bit more. I used to see them as sexless, uninteresting bores (when I was a kid - isn't that terrible?) but now I love spending time with them.

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

Hope you are enjoying your road trip - you missed the earthquake then?!

Lovely post - romantic, touching, gritty...I see some of your grandmother in you.

jen said...

Um, hoping younger still out of state and miss Irene hitting Long Island, hope you are safe and the house doesnt suffer!

Liberty London Girl said...

Just a quite note to say I'm thinking of you, as I hear LI getting quite a pounding. Hope you & yours are safe. LLGxx

'Cross the Pond said...

What a lovely post. Your grandparents sound like wonderful people. This is a lovely tribute.

Jennifer Fabulous said...

Stumbled upon your blog and happy that I did! :)

Your grandmother was very pretty and I agree, your grandfather was also quite attractive. I think it is so sweet and romantic that their passionate love letters still exist in the family today. You are lucky to have such a treasure!

Seeing old photos of my grandmother and hearing her stories as well is sometimes a bit of a jolt. You're right, it is a memorable moment when you first realize your grandmother was once a girl just like you! :)