|Real women in my life|
|Written by faye|
It was inevitable that in a family of three girls and no boys, from a mother who had an inordinate number of sisters and a Dad with three brothers, all of them married to women who were real characters, that women should dominate my early life. I don’t think I missed a male influence. My uncles and Dad were there to provide that.
But, oh, how I remember and miss those lovely and not so lovely ladies.
There was Mum, of course, cuddly, plump and cosy, smelling always of the baby talcum that she preferred to any other and of face powder. She was of the old school who believed that men were there to protect the weaker sex, to earn the money and to make the decisions. She bowed to Dad’s decisions and abided by his rulings. There were odd moments of rebellion, like the time our kitchen needed a new coat of paint and Dad was getting ready to repaint it its usual cream and green. Cream and green were the colours of kitchens, so he decreed. He was a painter and he knew it was pretentious and almost unheard of for any other colour to be used. Mum said to me “If I look at another cream wall or green cupboard door, I think I’ll scream.” “Well, tell him what you want,” I said. “Dad says………….” “Oh, pish,” says I, seventeen years old and a more modern woman “Let’s get the paint and do it ourselves.” Mum tightened her lips and looked dubious “Oh…. I don’t know…..” but I could see that she was tempted. So we did! Painted the walls pale blue with white woodwork and red cupboard doors.
Dad came home. His face said it all – he hated it “What sort of colours are those for a kitchen?” Mum found her courage. “They’re the ones I want,” she retorted. :”Oh, well, you’ll have to live with it. Don’t blame me,” was all he said and Mum punched the air in triumph when he left the room
My sister was 11 years older than me and really was another parent. She was away and out to work while we were still in primary school. I had been joined by another sister a couple of years my junior and Dad was quite outnumbered. By the time we all reached adulthood he had learned his place and that was to accept that females ruled the house and he was there to do all the hard and heavy work.
Aunty Kate was a joy to have visit us. She was a wag, full of stories, and with the added charm of having been a bit of a good time girl in her younger days. She had an illegitimate child between her two marriages (she divorced number one husband and married a foreigner the second time, all of which added to her mystique) and a had a whole slew of legal kids by her two husbands. She was pretty and slim and a bit raucous and we loved her.
Aunty Min was a bit of a snob and had one son who was the brightest, cleverest, most handsome child ever conceived and the son shone daily from his backside Aunty Min could also take out her teeth and make her chin meet the end of her nose. She only did the ‘witch’ trick at Christmas after she had had a couple of dry sherrys.
Then there was Aunty Marge. She was the one we were closest to, living just around the corner from us. She had her own teeth so couldn’t compete with Min but she had very pendulous breasts that hung down past her waist and she could toss them over her shoulders. We didn’t know anyone else who had an Aunty with a talent like that.
Eileen (we never called her Aunt for some reason) lived in the country and we spent a lot of time in the school holidays at her house. Her husband was the manager of a cheese factory as well as owning a small farm and my sister and I had free reign to watch and learn about cheese making, as well as learning the skill of milking cows and collecting eggs, not to mention swilling out the pig pens and flipping cast sheep back onto their feet.
We saw little of Aunty Miriam. She and Uncle Jim had no children and I don’t think she liked kids much. Visits to her country home were stiff formal affairs and there was nothing to do once we had been asked about how we were doing at school and given a biscuit to eat. The most exciting thing was observing to what new length the bristly hairs on her chin had grown. Clearly she never thought to cut them off or pull them out.
There was Grandma, of course, at home in her seaside cottage where we went for holidays and occasionally at our house when she came on one of her rare visits to Christchurch. Grandma was a stern woman, very much not a hands-on Granny. I don’t remember ever being hugged or kissed by her or even read to. She died when I was very young so I have few real memories of her.
I was even younger when my other grandmother died, only about four, and I don’t really have recollections of her at all, just a vague impression of a short, dumpy woman who looked a lot like my elder sister.
Aunt Vicky was another country relative and was really rather beautiful. She had a slim face with high cheekbones, good lines that stayed with her into old age. I never knew until I was a lot older that she had ‘foreign’ blood, something Mid-European, which maybe accounted for her good looks. She and Uncle Ern lived upstairs above the bus depot and office. Uncle Ern drove the bus to and from Christchurch every day.
Aunt Martine was a chronic moaner. Nothing ever pleased her and as she aged, deep lines of discontent became indelibly etched into her face. Life, to her, was a burden and a struggle and we would leave her house feeling really low. Mum used to say “Another five minutes of her company and I would have slit my wrists.” I knew what she meant.
Aunty Jane was a Catholic. She was also not very hygienic. On the odd occasion we stayed at her house we would be put to bed in evil smelling sheets that clearly had not seen laundry powder or water for a long, long time.
Geraldine, Mum’s friend, loved colours and quirky objects. She dressed in floaty, ill- defined dresses that I think she sewed herself. Certainly there was nothing like her style available in the shops. Her hair was wispy. The rooms of her home were every colour of the rainbow with scant heed paid to whether the hues and tints actually worked together. Every flat surface was filled with ornaments and dried flowers and little knick knacks. We loved visiting there because it didn’t worry her if we played with and examined her treasures and she never once cautioned us to ‘be careful’. We always were, anyway, and nothing was ever broken by our hands.
Mim played tennis with Mum and Dad, along with Ivy and Eva. Mim lived to be 105.
There was Melva and Joy, Elaine and Gretchen, Sally and Flo, all neighbours and friends and all with their own idiosyncrasies and quirks. They are all dead now but they all stay in my memory.
written by Mizbiz , 31 August, 2008
Women in our lives
written by Mime , 14 September, 2008
written by yuan , 23 May, 2011
Copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved.
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