Mr B says he likes to hear me chatting to my Little Sister. Which is really just as well because when we get together, my sister and I, there is no danger of our jaws rusting.
I have had a splendid weekend of chat, fun, reminiscences, confidences and laughter courtesy of my sister and her fella. They had been out and about in Winchester with their photography group on Friday and decided that, being
already halfway to ours, they might as well make a weekend of it. I am so very glad they did. What’s more they went over and above by bringing with them all their bedding and towels so that I wouldn’t have to change the bedclothes for my next visitors.
This is thoughtfulness par excellence.
There is a lot of current news to be shared, given that we have seven grown-up children and seventeen grandchildren between
us. My sister, however, wants to delve into the past and explore the work I have done so far in our shared family history. I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t advanced much in my research over the past couple of years, life having rather caught up with
me and forced me to concentrate on the here and now. I am, however, always up for a challenge so I spread across the dining room tabernacle all the birth, marriage and death certificates I have either purchased or been given for the Usher branch of our
family tree. To be honest, our dining room table simply wasn’t long enough to accommodate them all - that would have required a banqueting table of Majestic Proportions.
Here are the certificates for all three of our Grandad’s marriages, each lasting ten years before death carried off first one, then the second, then the third wife. When we were heartless littl’uns we thought that was quite amusing: “Don’t
marry Grandad or your days will be numbered!” Today we look at the hard facts contained on the official certificates and want to weep for our poor Grandad - the most gentle of gentle-men - and the tragedies he never talked about, at least not to us.
I pull a box of old photographs out of my wardrobe and we rummage through them. Both of us are remembering that this is how our dear mum stored her photographs - not in albums
but higgledy-piggledy in a cardboard box. No rhyme or reason to this filing system - we pull out photographic memories of holidays in the 1980s, followed by an envelope containing black and white snaps sent home by our Dad from Africa during the second World
War to “the best little wife in the world.” There’s a photo of Dad on a camel, against a background of pyramids; plus lots of snaps of him in uniform, many showing him arm in arm with his fellow soldiers, all smiling broadly as if to reassure
the folks back home that Army life is a lark - in defiance of reality.
My sister has reawakened my interest in family history research and I am looking forward
to all the fun we will have sharing the information we have gleaned as we continue to delve into the past in the weeks and months to come.
Photos, documents, certificates
- they all conjure up the past. There are, however, other powerful ways of invoking memories. For dinner on their first evening with us, I cook my sister and her fella a meat pie - the kind of meat pie, moreover, which was one of our dear Mum’s favourites
and one which we relished every time it was served up at our dinner table.
I wasn’t absolutely sure I had included all the ingredients which made our mother’s
pie so special so I cut out a message in pastry letters to decorate the pastry topping. “Mum’s meat pie” it read in slightly wobbly letters (because I’d cut them out in a bit of a hurry. I like to think, however, that my pie invoked
many a happy memory of meals around the dining room table in our shared childhood.
When it comes to our family history - Always Remember The Pie...