I've had a wee holiday, just a few days messing about enjoying the quiet of London in the middle of August. It has been lovely.
I popped round to my mum's one afternoon to collect some fabric for making Morsbags at our East End WI meeting this week. Entering her back bedroom was a bit like time travelling. First we came across some old jewellery, mostly those cheap sixties fake pearls. I guess I'm just a cheap sixties kind of girl, and very pleased that those days of playing surreptitiously with these treasures when I was a child were now legitimised with maternal sanction to take it home with me.
We carried on through the chest of drawers. Here, some dotted sand-coloured cotton - "Aunt Mary B gave me that. She probably didn't like it. She never gave me anything much in case I made something nice with it." Aunt Mary B, by the way, ran away to New Zealand in 1970, which means that this particular fabric has been in my mum's stash for nearly 40 years. )
Over here, at least 8 yards of a grosgrain type fabric, a lovely black- on- white mazy, meandering design - "Aunt Lily gave me that. She got it from work. They didn't want it. It would make a nice shift frock." Aunt Lily is coming up for 88 0r 89 and probably retired at least 25 years ago. What's more "they didn't want it" may well be a euphemism for helping herself to it.
We carried on. Leftovers from curtain making ( "Miss Cahill wouldn't let anyone else make those curtains but me"). Yards of lace ("I took this off that milk maid Laura Ashley frock you had, do you remember?" Yes I do, I ditched it more than 30 years ago.) A pretty red cotton print ( "This was for a dress for Sally when she was little" She is now 26.) A remnant of material with white umbrellas printed on black ( "This would make a little skirt for E. She could wear it with a white top. Take it home and do something with it.").
And so we went on, my mum claiming that there was a time when she could remember where every last bit of material came from. She talked about the way she had sat with her tailoress grandmother doing exactly what we were doing, how she had known that she wanted to be a dress maker. She talked about the frocks she had made for me, and the things she had planned to make but never got round to making.
I was handed a pile of material and instructed to put the rest back carefully. But I realised she was beginning to feel older and more vulnerable, and that maybe I should value a little more what she was passing on.