Sunday, September 23, 2007

My Auntie Marian

She doesn't want me to write this post and has sabotaged my first attempt. But . . .My father was one of three children. He had two sisters, Daphne and Marian. Neither ever married, largely due to their financial circumstances, the blinding of their father and the need to keep the bakery alive during the late war years, they say, took away opportunities for romance.

Whatever their excuses, neither married. Daphne was the 'masculine' sister. The one who took care of affairs, registered cars, the chief adminstrator. Marian was softer, sweeter, the teacher, the empath. A well respected teacher, department head and eventually head mistress of a school near Luton. They lived distant to us Cheshire folk so visits were restricted to Whitsun and Christmas, baby births and funerals or fantastic half way visits at Twy Cross Zoo in Wales where I remember picnics of Scotch Eggs and cold sausages (ah English cuisine - what an oxymoron that is).

My Auntie Marian took me to Switzerland when I was 7 on a school trip full of 16 year olds . . . she bought me a high school uniform for the occasion so that I'd fit in . . I felt very important. I sat at the staff table and mingled with the 'big girls'.. I walked across the original Lucerne Bridge before it burned down in the 80's. Ate Swiss Chocolate and fondue. Marvelled at the Gornergrat and Jungfrau and learned the legend of Mt Pilatus before dancing with Lederhosen clad mountain types and I hated their unsalted butter.

She, her sister Daphne and my Grandma lived together in a little thatched village called Shillington. Their view was farmland and they were within spitting distance of a Medieval church with a spooky graveyard and brasses on the floor. I loved the place. We visited when I was 16 and I went again as a loner when I was 21. After my Grandma died, there were two, and in 1989 there was just Marian. She was alone . . no reason to stay in England, her selubrious and popular career long gone (how quickly people forget) . So after my Dad had settled all the affairs necessary after the demise of a loved one, she visited. It was nice . . she told stories we hadn't heard . . . she liked a gin and tonic . . she was eager to learn but slightly outstayed her welcome. A six week stay ended up being 4 months and my poor mother was about to tear her hair out. Our ageing aunt was not good at walking and actually seemed to quite like being dependent on others. Marian and my dad would have drinking bouts which turned them both into aggressive monsters and sometimes it was simply beyond the pale - him whiskey doused, her supping from her 'gin tray' of Gordon's and a jug of chilled water.

Marian duly returned to her lonely life in England. Then came the request for sponsorship. She wanted to emigrate at 70 years of age. She had the means, the health (although highly dubious, I think some forms were 'embellished') But come she did. My dad, filled with brotherly duty sponsored her, found a home for her and she lived with us for 2 years before passing.

My point . . .I remember her as vital, educational, instructive, friendly, warm. The times we spent at her house were full of arty dramatic young men and women, sherry before dinner and a bath so deep you could swim in it . . she taught me how to 'take tea' from Shelley China and how to identify a neolilthic flint and she introduced me at a very young age to home brewed ginger wine and chocolate digestive biscuits.

My siblings remember her as a demanding and debilitated old woman who wanted to be the centre of attention . . . in the end she was frail, and the most exciting thing about her was her motorised wheelchair. Sure, the older she became and the more gin she drank the more demanding and laborious she seemed. It was a chore to visit (she didn't tolerate young children well) . . .but she was a warm and loving person. She taught me so much about my family, my history, my origins . . sadly she died one week before my mother and any thunder she had to weild was stolen.

Grannymar recently posted about the value of knowing where you came from, your history and the stories that your elders have to tell. Often they're tiresome, some you hear over and over again but when they're gone, they're the anecdotes you pass on to your children. They're the things that make our short tenure on this planet important because they show connection and give us a tantalising hint at the answer to that proverbial question "what is the meaning of life".

We forgot about Auntie Marian . . . just for a little while . . . other events placed her in the background although now I think about her influence on all those hundreds, maybe thousands of young lives and whether they give her a passing thought. Then again the first post I wrote about her . . she disapproved and froze my PC. I think she's a little happier about this attempt.


Grannymar said...

Baino, wonderful Cameo of your Aunt!

Your post reminded me of 'An Old Lady's Poem' - it was circulated round the net in aid of the Marie Curie Cancer Nurses fundraising. Here are a few lines:

What do you see, nurses, what do you see?
What are you thinking when you’re looking at me?

A crabby old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes?

Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, “I do wish you’d try!”

Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill….

Is that what you’re thinking, is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse; you’re not looking at me.

Nancy said...

Hello Baino,

I loved the story of Auntie Marion and read every word with interest.

I think she would have liked this version of her life story. You were very kind and sympathetic to her even if she did overstay her welcome with your family and perhaps drank one too many Gins.

The poem that Grannymar posted was perfect for Auntie Marion because I feel that is most likely how she felt as she grew older and lost so much of her identity to age.

The main thing is, you were kind, Baino.

Baino said...

Thanks Ladies. I knew her better than my siblings. Her health was very poor but her mind sharp as a tac. I just hope some of her students remember the contribution she made when she was younger.

Nonny said...

I think all of us have a relative like that, it can be so trying dealing with them when they are old and grumpy. My grandmother was like that a little whilst I loved her dearly my brothers had little time for her. They didn’t know her like I did.

wordnerd said...

I think she sounds WONDERFUL! And I'm glad you got to share her with us before she put a stop to it!!!