Friday, March 10, 2006

Great-Aunt Margaret

It's been a bit of a weird last week. My great aunt, the matriarch of my mother's side of the family died last Friday. She had been in hospital for some time, having had a fall and requiring a pin in her leg. Several weeks ago she was moved to a cottage hospital for final recovery and rehabilitation, only she never quite recovered. She suffered several small strokes in the last week and her eyesight which had been growing poorer, failed intensely. For someone who was an adamant writer and reader I can only imagine the grief this must have caused her. The last days she was in and out of consciousness and then finally slipped away on Friday 3rd. Great-aunt Margaret was in her 80s and had enjoyed a full life. She contributed hugely to her community, serving as a librarian for many years and providing vast and on-going historical research for the town she lived in. And not long ago she had her first book published. While I am desparately sad and shall miss her enormously, she was always such a no-nonsense woman who believed that women could anything they put their minds to, I am equally as sad for my grandmother and my cousins Geoff and Jilly who have lost their sister and mother. The last time I was in England I spoke with Jilly about the fact that the generations are moving up in the family. I now have a child and have moved into the role that was my parents. My mum, Al, Jilly, Geoff and Hetty are slowly moving into the upper echelons of family hierarchy. The passage of time continues to excite me while making me extremely aware of the fragility of life. Naturally it my grief I turned to those things that reminded me the most of Great-aunt Margaret, or Lallie as she was known to the family. I have a paperweight that she gave me one Christmas. It's a perfectly round glass ball with a dandelion clock inside. The little note that accompanied it, which I still have, in her scrawly writing reads "Time flies By!" How fitting then that it should have been the first thing my eyes rested upon after receiving the phone call of her passing. I remember many a Christmas gathering at her house. We would have all the family there and vast quantities of food and drink; my mum and grandpa always doing the washing up in her kitchen; one of her lovely RSPCA labradors eagerly hoping someone would drop turkey on the floor; taking our afternoon Christmas day walk in green wellies and barbours in the parks by her house; the inevitable family politics and lots of wonderful memories. Perhaps the best thing I shall remember and recall of Great-aunt Margaret is that she really was one of the catalysts for my love of books and writing. I have a lovely letter that she wrote to me once saying that she had heard I wanted to be a writer. Her advice to me was to train for another job and write in my spare time! All these years on I realise that I have done exactly as she suggested. Even when Jay was born she continued to send me books for him. Fantastic classics that Jay has thoroughly enjoyed and that to, me are the epitomy of a good children's library. As my salute to Great-Aunt Margaret here is a short list of some of the books that she gave to me as a child plus a few that ended up in Jay's lap, that fueled my love of reading and my dream of becoming a writer. Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder The Young Visitors - Daisy Ashford Milly-Molly-Mandy series - Joyce Lancaster Brisley Each Peach Pear Plum - Janet and Allen Ahlberg Peepo! - Janet and Allen Ahlberg Jane Austin Charlotte Bronte Complete Works of Poetry - Lord Byron Poems on the Underground - Various

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