Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Among the leaves

 This is a season of change, falling leaves, and the loosening of memory.
And this autumn, amongst leaves of another kind, I discovered a gift. I was sorting the last of my mother-in-law's papers. She died in November, aged 95.
It was tempting to throw out the whole bundle. But I kept it to sort, and how glad I am. Because I found two letters, on blue paper and in an even, rounded handwriting that was familiar to me.

They were written by my mother-in-law's mother.

Beena (whom I called 'Granny') was like a guardian angel to me, when as a young married woman I travelled across the world with my husband to visit his home country of England, and to explore Europe. Several years later we left New Zealand again to live in Paris for two years, where my husband went to theatre school. In the summer holidays we rented a thatched cottage in Dorset, England. I'd written my PhD on Thomas Hardy, and there amidst the rolling hills of the 'Hardy country', I prepared to give birth to our baby.

My mother was across the world, my mother-in-law was in America, and I was bereft of female relatives - except for Beena, who set herself up in the village inn, 'just to keep an eye'.
It was from this inn that she wrote to her daughter in America. For the first time I read her loving description of how we were with our new baby boy.

Her tender words unfurled from the page and wrapped themselves around me like a silky shawl. Our baby is 'thriving', she writes. I am 'a good little mother', and my husband 'marvellous' as he does every kind of chore 'so well and happily'. She loves to see and hear me 'playing sweet melodies' on my guitar after his early evening feed, which makes him 'quiet at once.'
Such a picture of happiness. Beena would invite us to meals at the inn so that I didn't have to cook, and she watched over our little one while we rambled along the hedgerows picking blackberries.
A year later, things fell apart tragically, but for now I have this beautiful memory revived, through the blue pages that Beena wrote over 40 years ago. Treasure amidst the falling leaves of autumn .

11 comments:

Lynley said...

What a very special treasure you have unearthed Juliet.

As we email, text, tweet and blog more and more the generations to come might not have our words to be warmed by.

Hand written, newsy letters are so very special.

juliet said...

You are so right Lynley, letters are special and emails will never take their place. Thanks.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Juliet .. what a wonderful find - to remind you of happy times together .. what a stroke of luck - you weren't rash ..

Cheers and I'm so pleased for you .. lovely words - Beena sounds like one special lady .... Hilary

Joan said...

Such a lovely post Juliet. What a treasure...what a gift from the past. It is a miracle that such things as letters survive. There are plenty of tidy persons around who toss things out. Thank goodness for keepers!

Ruth G said...

What a wonderful letter to find and to be able to show your granddaughter. A treasure indeed!

juliet said...

Ruth, it was an exciting find. Thank you.

Hotly Spiced said...

What an absolute treasure to have Beena in your lives and an incredible treasure to find her letters after all these years. I'm so glad you didn't throw them out but instead found them and read them. What wonderful memories but I'm sure it was a sense of mixed blessing knowing she had written such kind words yet tragically was no longer with you xx

Anne Dean Ruffell said...

How marvellous to have found those letters - I can imagine how much they mean to you. They are a happy glimpse into the past with another's comments n such an important event in your life. It's good to get back to reading your blog again.

juliet said...

Charlie, it was such a find, and I'm glad too that I didn't throw them out - it was a close call.
Anne, how nice to see you here! You were part of that time too. Thanks, both of you.

lifeonthecutoff said...

Juliet, you brought sweet tears to my eyes this day. What a tender and surprising treasure you came across and how fortunate that you waited, then took the time to sift through the bundle and in doing so, found not only Beena, but a bit of you as well.

juliet said...

Penny, how beautifully you put that - finding both Beena and a bit of me too. Thank you for joining with me in this sweet sorrow. It's good to see you here again.