It’s no secret that I love vintage items: glassware, bone china, linen. Actually, it’s not just vintage; I love pretty things. It goes back as far as I can remember, and especially high days and holidays like Christmas. I loved the sense of occasion and I loved the opportunity to set a festive table. Favourite among the things I loved being able to use were the Rowland Ward crystal – a wedding present to my parents in 1961.
Then there are the hand-embroidered, cut-work linen table mats and coasters that Mum had made (with Granny‘s help – the rosebuds in single tread satin stitch) for her trousseau. The full set is not complete – she didn’t complete it, but it’s complete enough – there were still “virgin” templates and thread when she died. Each place seting is a different colour – and I can do a table setting for up to six with those. My favourite is this blue one and, like the crystal, they also grace the supper tables at The Sandbag House.
Last week there was a post on our village Facebook page: folk who have things to sell, advertise them there. This one included coffee plungers and a four-cup tea set. I needed at least one more single-serving coffee plunger, and I’ve long been looking for cups and saucers. We prefer mugs, so those last have not been high on the priority list.
As an aside, I should mention that we only do Sunday Suppers once a week, sometimes less often, so investing large amounts of money doesn’t rest well. Not only is it potentially wasteful, but more realistically, we are exceedingly short of storage space. I long ago learned that the latest gadget was not a must-have: when I’ve been
conned persuaded to buy the latest fad, it’s often ended up being a one-minute wonder. I return to either a universal tool, or just doing the task manually. I’ve discovered, for example, that hand-cutting the citrus for marmalade is not just more efficient (and less frustrating) because I don’t have to manage the bits that escape the food processor, it actually also saves time and washing up. Only one knife and the cutting board. As opposed to the food processor’s bowl, lid and blade.
I digress. As usual.
Back to the other day. Of course I knew that there would be other items for sale, but I wasn’t prepared for what I found: a daughter helping her very frail and ailing mother to pack up her home. This time of the year (November into December) is always difficult for me. Twenty years ago this December, my mother died. Eleven months later, in November, my father joined her. What was happening there hit me like a ten-ton wrecking ball.
It brought back all the memories, sadness and pain of sorting, deciding and packing up their lives. Although my mother had done a great deal of sorting before they had moved into the retirement complex, the sentimental and precious items had moved with them. For all intents and purposes, sorting it out after my Dad died, was like packing up my childhood home.
Who wanted what? What would be chucked out? Sold? Donated?
All I could think, and it came spurting out, “This is so hard! This is such a hard thing to be doing…”
That was acknowledged and the Mum said that she’s going to a “beautiful place” with a manor house and care and, and…
The next thing that occurred to me, and which wouldn’t stay in in my brain, either, was that at least they had the blessing of doing it together. I left, with more than I had intended: a bone china jug and side plate, as well as a set of six beautiful, antique tea plates.
An indulgence, perhaps, but I was able to give the honest assurance that they will be used – and appreciated. They will join the Rowland Ward, linen, Royal Albert coffee set and Mr Fox, all of which grace supper tables @ The Sandbag House.
It may be twenty years, but she was in my life for thirty six. In many respects, that was difficult – Mum and I had a scratchy relationship, to say the least. She was, though, my mother, and my relationship with her is much improved by acknowledging that, and how much we are alike. It’s not a happy admission. Of the qualities I admired the most were her can-do, and we’ll-make-a-plan approach to everything. I seem to have acquired some of that – along with her enjoyment of cooking.
Dad, on the other hand, I adored – a relationship that was interrupted by my first marriage. We found each other and a healing between Mum’s death and his eleven months later. Of, The Husband and I believe, a broken heart. It’s from him I inherit my stubbornness, my green-ish fingers and love of flowers. And scrambled egg.
Mum and Dad’s things in our home are much more than things: they keep them with us. More to the point, Mum and Dad become part of the conversations over suppers @ The Sandbag House.
It doesn’t matter when one loses a parent – at six, thirty six or seventy six. It still leaves one bereft, and suddenly one’s world changes profoundly; forever. Over the decades, the grief diminishes, but the missing doesn’t stop. It just changes; it’s easier because it’s less raw. Until something happens that brings it all back. You can’t really ever put it behind you.
Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
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