Please indulge me this week, as there’s a story attached to my photo …
As I wrote in a recent blog post, lately I’ve had cause to think about the things in our house that I cherish. I don’t have much that’s been passed down through generations of my family, and even less that was handmade, but sitting in a box on a shelf in my wardrobe, wrapped in acid-free tissue paper, are two bed jackets made by my great-grandmother, Noreda Alice Hill, née Clark.
There’s a long story associated with her life—she was born in 1900, and widowed at twenty-seven with six young children. One day, she took to her bed and didn’t leave it for twenty-six years. Hence, she had a lot of time to devote to handcrafts, and she made many beautiful things.
She died when I was eight, and I remember her as little (even to me as a child), grumpy, with a walking stick leaning nearby.
As I was growing up, I remember her embroidered tablecloths, with her initials on the hems, being spread on the table for special dinners. My sister and I wore the plastic berry brooches she’d made when playing dress-ups. I used the brown leather sewing box she’d handmade, for my own sewing accessories—sticking my needles and pins through the pink lining and pincushion.
At the time, I gave little thought to the painstaking work that had gone into making all these things, and I certainly didn’t view them as objets d’art or as treasured heirlooms from my family history—all that meant nothing to me. I didn’t think that one day I’d wish we’d not used them, but looked after them.
Amongst her things one day, I remember seeing an envelope upon which she’d written in capitals: ‘REMEMBER GOEBBELS AND THE GESTAPO.’ She’d pinned it to her lapel and worn it when she went to vote in an election not long after the War.
The bed jacket in this photo has French seams, and the front and sleeves are pin-tucked and embroidered with tiny rosebuds. My great-grandmother crocheted a cotton trim along the edges of the lapels and collar, and also handmade the loops for the buttons.
Like me when I was younger, my kids have no interest in paraphernalia from their family tree, not yet—they look at these bed jackets and just see discoloured, old-fashioned shirts that smell musty.
But I’ll keep them and pass them on, in the hope that one day they’ll treasure them as I do.
At the weekend, Monique made a trip to the Margaret River Region, and ended the day with a fireside meal at fellow writer Lily Malone’s house. It was one of those comfortable evenings characterised by good food, good wine and good company, and was made even more special by the flickering fire (and a couple of jumbo marshmallows). As the flames flickered, Monique felt them saying, ‘Catch me if you can …’ and so she had her creative challenge for the week.
Midweek Moment is a weekly photographic endeavour in which Monique Mulligan and I team up to share our favourite photos on our websites. It’s a way of stretching ourselves creatively and a nice distraction from writing. Click here for more of our Moments.
When my grandfather died, my mother put together a folder of all his old papers – ticket to Australia, trade certificates, even a newspaper article that inspired him to move to Australia from Germany. It’s a beautiful keepsake.
What a thoughtful thing to do, and how nice for you to have and pass on to the next generation. It’s the little details that are worth remembering, too. Like the article that prompted your grandfather to move to Australia.
Interesting post about your treasures. You’re talking to someone here who can barely sew a button… I was going to say that Jennie Jones posted a blog about curious and treasures and things that are precious to her from her Welsh background. You might be interested in checking that out. 🙂 Love the fire photos Monique – we enjoyed our Saturday with you.
I will check out Jenny’s blog—thanks for letting me know. I actually enjoy sewing—when I was a student, I used to sew most of my wardrobe, and I made dresses and things for the girls when they were little. I ran out of time, though, somewhere along the line. I’ve not ever embroidered and wouldn’t know where to start, but at one stage when the kids were little, I started hoarding—I mean, subscribing to—Embroidery and Smocking magazines. I never made a thing from them, but I loved browsing the pages.
It sounds as if you had a lovely day with Monique!
We had a great time with you, too, Lily.
What a pretty looking bed jacket and tea cup. When my grandmother died, my mother found a crocheted baby bonnet and booties hidden away. My grandmother was a 14 year old bride. It was a shotgun wedding and she lost the baby soon after they were married. She went on to have five more babies though. We suspect the baby items were for the first lost baby. I still have them in my treasured possession.
I can’t tell you how much your grandmother’s story has moved me. It’s so sad and tragic—fourteen and pregnant and already a bride, only to lose the baby. But I also feel angry, too, on her behalf, because it’s paedophilia—she was denied a safe childhood. And I’d bet my bottom dollar she was blamed and shamed for it. I’m sure your grandmother wasn’t the only one something like this happened to—there’s so many sad and tragic stories of what women have had to bear …
Flying from Africa to Australia, meant I could bring limited luggage, so left many treasures there.
Oh no! I bet it was hard to part with them—I feel your pain! Do you know where they are, and could you get them back if you returned? Or did you have to sell them or give them away?
They’re ‘long gone’….
What a shame 🙁 x
What an amazing woman. I really enjoyed reading this story. I treasure few of the things grandma made… Didn’t manage to bring much when I was leaving Azerbaijan. Mostly memories. Thank you for sharing so beautifully, Louise. This piece touched my heart.
She obviously had talents and was extremely creative and good with her hands. There’s no doubt she had a tough life, with early widowhood and six small children, yet not many people talk about her fondly. In fact, one of my uncles called her ‘a bloody old cow’ when he was speaking to me last year! I think she was quite manipulative and one day, I’ll write a longer post on her because it’s quite a story!
She reminds me of my grandma… I’d love to read about her some more.