I started meeting Auntie Edie in the mirror,
so rooted out the tiny photographs to check:
her nose and lips were coarser, but the shape’s the same …
Great Aunt Edith – to us the funny snob who came
to tea on Thursdays and ‘wasn’t used to children’.
Shapeless and sagging, she’d never worn a bra,
had sparse grey hair scraped back into a bun
and used to drawl ‘I know, I know’ to everything we told her.
She instructed me it’s wrong to say ‘I love ice cream!’ –
‘Such feelings are for people – not for objects or for food.’
We imagined she knew nothing of any sort of love;
She let fall little hints – mysterious men in France before the war –
but Mum said she just made that up, there never was a man.
I’ve found a relic which backs up the fabled snobbishness:
a thirties’ menu from The Women’s Business Club in Glasgow –
peas, potatoes, dressed lamb cutlet, speech by Mrs Tweeddale –
unassuming friends like Betty Kingdon, Florrie Clough
have signed their names alongside ‘Edythe’ Griffin.
My sister startles me by saying, ‘I loved Auntie Edie.
We used to visit her in that old people’s home in Eccles –
I was only little, and we’d nod and wink at one another secretly.
I was really cross they wouldn’t take me to her funeral
and didn’t go themselves.’
Looking at her photograph,
I see myself an old and tiresome woman,
holding out my cherished memories to unbelieving visitors …
©Virginia Rounding, 1995
First published in Iota 36, 1996