An inheritance

One of my Nannas, aged 90, has recently gone to live in a nursing home. She’s very healthy and sound, despite having had two hip replacements and a bladder cancer (successfully treated) in the past year or so. She couldn’t take a lot with her, although her room is quite big, so most of her stuff has been divided up between her four sons, their wives and children and grandchildren (amongst the things that Nanna chose to have with her at the nursing home are her own father’s baby clothes, tiny garments in perfect condition).

Today the truck bringing the things destined for me and Ruby arrived from Melbourne. This evening I have taken possession of: a round oak table, circa 1910, with two leaves and a winder; a four-drawer dressing table with a bevelled, tilting mirror, circa 1940, its drawers lined with newspaper from 1988 and one containing half a roll of Mentos.

Also, a grey rabbit-fur coat, ¾ length and lined in silver satin, protected by an ancient linen housecoat (it’s as if the coat is wearing a shirt); a rust-coloured fox-fur coat; a brown rabbit-fur stole; several towels—all smaller than towels you get nowadays—coloured apricot, orange, pale rose, fuschia, salmon and lemon; two single-bed woollen blankets that have only been used twice, when my grandmother’s sister visited from England; a single-bed quilt made of patchwork hezagons, stitched in a tiny hand, made of recycled fabrics—florals and ginghams and plains—in shades of mustard, sienna, amber and bronze.

These smaller items were packed in a wooden travelling trunk that Nanna brought on the ship to Australia from England just after the war. Lined in canvas, it has a lift-out top compartment, strong leather handles and the initials “G. J.” hand-painted in matte black on the front (Gabriel is my family’s Jewish name, Jones is our Anglo one). Inside was tucked this label, I’m guessing from the shop where Nanna and Pop bought the trunk in Liverpool:

I think the trunk is beautiful, with its wooden ribs and brass rivets, but Nanna clearly didn’t agree because she’s gone to some trouble to disguise it as a seat. She’s made a fitted & padded damask cover for it, printed with purple roses and cornflowers. This cover smells the most of Nanna of any of the things that have arrived. Musk, lavender, moth balls, talcum powder… it puts me straight into her bedroom where the pale carpet is soft, where a tiny bowl of porcelain roses sits on the dressing table next to the creamy bakerlite & silver hairbrush, where the lace curtains are never opened and where the temperature is two degrees cooler than the rest of the world.

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3 Responses to “An inheritance”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    Sigh. The beauty of old pale things.

    While she was still alive, my Nan gave us her fox stole to play with: its mouth was full of a silver metal clasp that gripped its tail; and I wonder if I’m remembering correctly when I recall its little leathery feet tucked under somewhere. She’s wearing it in my parents’ wedding photos.

    Heh. And I also have the old trunk my grandfather brought from Arbroath in Scotland, stripped and polished by my father.

    And my partner still has the pale cream knitted layette he wore as a baby. We dressed our son in it once, while we remembered, and while it still fitted him.

    How stable these treasures seem to be. Or maybe that’s just our generation? Well, I think of you as much younger than I am, but then 1988 seems quite recent to me!

  2. librarygirl Says:

    Oh Meredith please put up a picture of the patchwork hexagons – would love to see the old fabric and colours.

  3. georgie Says:

    I started my first blog just now. Everyone has gone to bed and I should really follow suit seeing as it is five in the morning. But I just wanted to tell you. Your pâté was just delicious. xx

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