Bit of a busy day, so I have reblogged an old story. Sorry about that !
SUN HATS IN THE ISIS
It was a melancholy task for a sultry summer’s day and I felt a pang of nostalgia as I walked up the garden path in the glare of the sun. The lavender bushes on either side releasing their soft scent as they brushed against my bare legs.
I still hadn’t fully digested the fact that she was gone. That vibrant, wonderful lady, so full of life, who had opened her heart and her home to two orphaned girls. We had spent every school holiday with her and during term time she had travelled up to our boarding school and taken my sister Katy and me out for the day, returning us, tired and late and full of cake, laughing at the nun’s disapproval.
But gone she was and here was I, about to clear her home and pack away her belongings. A skip was waiting at the roadside for all the discarded detritus of my dear Aunt’s life, the bric-a-brac collected throughout the last fifty years.
I entered the cottage and climbed the narrow stairs up to the attic……….. Start at the top and work down, that was my plan. The sunlight filtered through the dusty windows of the shadowy room and lay in rainbow pools on the worn oak floor.
I glanced round at the steamer trunks and battered tea-chests, each one containing memories of childhood, of happy times. I rummaged and rooted and, as I did, the past came flooding back.
Oh, there were the pair of bronzes that had once graced the hall. They were always perched on marble stands and I remembered being chided when I had sent one flying down the tiled passageway during a particularly boisterous game of ‘tag’ with Katy. The stand had been badly damaged and the statues really didn’t look quite the same on the sideboard in the dining room, hence their exile to the attic ………awaiting some new location, but long forgotten.
Sighing, I opened a huge wicker hamper and smiled as I lifted out a beautiful, wide brimmed sunhat, decorated with faded silk poppies. Aunt Sophia had worn it that day on the river at Oxford, the day I had graduated. A slight breeze had floated up the Isis and lifted the hat from her golden curls, depositing it in the water, where it lay like a giant lily pad.
Aunt had been distraught, her limpid green eyes welling with tears until a passing oarsman, seeing her distress, had risked life and limb, swinging from an overhanging branch and grabbing it before it was lost forever, crushed beneath an approaching punt. He was rewarded with one of my aunt’s smiles and a husky “Thank you” and away he rowed, with a beaming face and, I’m sure, a captured heart.
People always rushed to her aid, she had an air of delicate vulnerability and frailty about her and her radiant smile was reward enough for even the hardest heart.
But this was getting nothing done ! I couldn’t sit here all day, wallowing in memories.
I walked across the room and opened a mahogany wardrobe and , oh yes, there was the voluminous winter coat she always wore ! It was made from some luxurious type of beavers skin , way back in the days when such garments were acceptable. I believe it had been her Mother’s……. my Grandmother…..and was far too big for her tiny frame. But she wore it whenever there was the slightest chill and even wore it in the house on particularly cold days. She couldn’t always afford to heat every room and so the three of us would huddle around the meagre fire in the drawing room, Aunt in her beaver coat and Katy and I wrapped in woolen shawls, toasting crumpets and teacakes and giggling as we ate them and the butter ran down our chins.
She read to us, usually Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde and gave me my love for Literature. She had us memorise whole speeches, a frown creasing her brow if we dared to misquote Portia’s speech or forget to say , ” In a handbag ?” in a suitable tone.
I held the soft coat against my cheek and its musty smell mingled with the faint aroma of Aunt Sophia’s special perfume. I was going to miss her dreadfully.
Oh, but I must get on, I only had a few days to sort out all Aunt’s things and then her house would be handed over to the Estate Agent and sold.
A tear rolled down my cheek as I thought of dear Aunt Sophia on that last day. She lay on the chaise longue in the drawing room and had reached out a pale hand and held my arm,
” When I’m gone , take whatever you want and throw the rest away, sweetie. You and Katy are my only living relatives so sort it out between yourselves. The house will be sold and you can share the proceeds. I won’t need it where I am going !”
No indeed she won’t, bless her. The ten million pounds she won on the lottery will see to that.
Off she has gone to live in South America and according to her last text message , sent from Buenos Aires airport, the Argentinian tango dancer she met on the flight will ensure she isn’t lonely !