Monday, April 09, 2007

A legacy of love

I am way behind on reading my favourite blogs and even further behind in posting here, but when Alice posted this story of A Promise Delayed I was reminded of a family story I discovered recently. I say story, but it is really only the bare bones of one, something I pieced together looking through family papers as I cleared out and packed up my mother's old house.

A while ago I posted on my cookery blog about my Auntie ... technically an adopted great-aunt, but in reality my grandmother in all but name. During our decluttering Mum and I found a box of papers and photos that had belonged to Auntie and Uncle. Among the photos were some of Auntie as a child. Born in 1903, she was the picture of a happy Edwardian childhood ... a contented toddler in frilled petticoats and buttoned boots, and later a smiling family grou0p of a young woman with her mother and father. The photos spoke eloquently of the beloved daughter of proud and doting parents. As indeed she was.

My mother knew that Auntie was an only child. What she did not realise was that her parents married in 1883 (we found their wedding certificate in the same box) and waited twenty long years for this precious child, born when they were both in their forties. Were there lost babies? Was there just month after month after month of bitter disappointment? I don't know ... but I can imagine what joy they must have felt at the arrival of this long awaited daughter.

Auntie herself was childless. She did not marry until she was thirty-five, and there was to be no late in life baby for her. For many years she taught small children, and then found her own family by unofficial adoption - first a lonely young woman whose own mother had shown her no affection, and then that young woman's children ... myself and my brother. Although she died when I was only in my teens, Auntie left the deepest impression on me of all my grandparents, and I realised recently why this was. She possessed what is perhaps one of the most important qualities of motherhood - the ability to make her "children" feel absolutely and unconditionally loved.

I wonder now whether that quality was a fruit of the great love her own parents showed for this child of their later years. If so, then it left an inheritance of love that has passed down the generations of our family. Another find during our clear out was Auntie's engagement ring, which my mother was happy for me to have. I had it altered to fit and now wear it as a reminder ... not just of Auntie herself, but of the warmth of the acceptance, love and joy that she radiated. And I pray that this reminder will help me to pass on to my own children this same warm feeling of knowing themselves unconditionally loved. What a legacy that would be.


Jan said...

That's a beautiful post.

Jenn Miller said...

A beautiful post and a wonderful tribute. What a special woman she was!

Alice said...

Perfectly beautiful.

And your story about "Auntie" reminds me so much of my own grandaunt Delia.

Romany said...

So thankful to God on you and your mother's behalf for the wonderful woman that He placed in your lives.