Sunday, June 7, 2009

Collecting: Family letters (2)

The handwriting is very carefully formed, the manner deferential and self-effacing and the range of interests constrained and homely. We move on nearly fifteen years from the first "letter" announcing the birth of my grandmother, this next offering was written by her: Sylvia Irene Veronica Cole. This gem of a collectable was written in 1910 when SIVC was a whisker past 14 years of age; written from Tamworth, a small country town in the northern tablelands of NSW; written to HER grandparents. The watercolour gives me a thrill each time I study it. My older brother, who saw it for the first time this past weekend, was mesmerised.

Sylvia's mother was Sarah-Annie and HER mother married three times (Evans, Finch, Faull) all of whom were road-workers and Australian. Ma Cole was not highly educated and I surmise that her own mother was even less so. My guess is that in this letter, Sylvia is writing to her paternal Grandmother, Hannah Wilkins Cole, who remained in England and to whom her husband Steven, returned after a brief sojourn in the Antipodes.

A wee slip of a girl who was to bear four children to a man 17 years her senior; to lose the two younger children whilst continuing to live to 88 years of age. A grandmother who told me about her astonishment on her wedding night; who poo-pooed her garulous older spinster sister's pontifications about married life: "what would she know!" I adored her.

SIVC in 1916, aged 21; and, in 1942 aged 47, with two sons serving in the AIF in New Guinea.


altadenahiker said...

She in the room with you when you look at the writing? A little piece of it is, we can get unrecognizable over the years, but our handwriting doesn't change much at all.

Email is a wonderful thing, but we're going to lose a lot too.

Julie said...

She is often in the room with me: I get flashes of her. I can see her walking down her hallway in Bondi. One of the many passwords I use is her old phone number: when I key it in, I can hear her answering the phone. One of the reasons I have a hand fetish is because of the painful beauty of her gnarled, rheumy knuckles.

I agree that email, though wonderful, is not so much destroying, rather eliminating, this connection with our departed loved ones.

I disagree about our handwriting changing. I think we have three varieties: childish, mature, and aged. I am now in the aged category where there are times when I cannot control the pen and the writing is sloppy and spidery. I have to slow down and actually thing about the physical task. A reversion to childish ways, if you will.

altadenahiker said...

I have a recipe written in my father's hand for red saurkraut. It comforts me to look at it. Some of his letters to me are too painful to bring out except on rare occassions. But a recipe is benign.

Julie said...

I have scribblings written by my father as he slipped into dementia and before medication relieved the panic. They are less painful although they say horrid things: they are less painful because it was the disease not the person speaking.

No matter how painful they be, do not dispense with them.

altadenahiker said...

Ah yes, the one I can hardly stand to read is actually my dad at his most tender. It's too beautiful to post. Yet.

Julie said...

My father does not have what I would call a tender-button. When he is feeling (self) exposed he comes across as gruff. As though it is way too much for him to bear ... He taught his step-Grandson to shake hands because men don't cuddle.

Joan Elizabeth said...

With email, SMS, Instant messaging, blogs, twitter there is actually more words being written than ever. If you seek to preserve a fraction of them on something less volitile than electronics you have a very rich source of memory. So save at least a few of the emails the kids send you.

I kept the last emails my brother-in-law sent me before his mind descended into the horrors of the brain tumour that took him away.

Now for handwiting. I noticed that mine is 'going off'. I thought it was because I use a keyboard too much but perhaps it is age. Golly, I can hardly feed myself without slopping food down my front either ... I put that down to my bosum getting too generous for a while.

Julie said...

mmm ... okay ... shall keep some of the more significant ones ... I have some of their childish writings.

I think it is a combination of using a keyboard and muscle wastage through ageing.My lower arm aches when I have to write even a 6 line paragraph. Whereas I am on a computer all day every day without so much as a twinge. The only thing that I spill down my front is the choc-top from an ice-cream at the cinema. And I only do that when I have a white top on.

Not sure what to learn from that ...