Thursday, December 11, 2008

A letter about a childhood

I totally forgot to post this back when I was writing about the Hermanus phase of my trip. While in Hermanus, my aunt Anne shared a letter with me. The letter was hand-written about nine years ago to my grandmother from one of her childhood friends. While there, I typed it up and had my cousin Diana send it to me. I feel a bit like I am intruding on someone else's privacy by posting this, but I think it's so lovely that I want to share it and I don't see that it will do any harm.

13 August 1999

Dearest Cathy [my grandmother]

My eyesight is not too good so I do not enjoy writing--I hope you can decipher this letter. I have been telling my family what you and your family meant to me so now I have decided to tell it to you.

I remember the details of your dad’s tidy garden, the fruit and rose trees all pruned and the trunks white washed, the grape vines that we climbed in and the grenadillas [passion fruits] below the water tank.

I visited often for morning tea. We had bossie [bush... I assume rooibos/red] tee [tea] made with hot milk and lovely rusks [kind of like biscotti... for dunking into tea]--at Sonop [the name of the writer's family's house--means Sunrise], if we children were hungry, we found raw sweet potatoes in the shed under the tank!

I remember your mother so well--I remember the pincushion on her dressing table that looked like a piece of watermelon--black pips [seeds] and all.

She covered your Topsy doll regularly--new beady earrings and all. Do you remember the sweets [candies] she used to make--the peppermint syrup that she pulled as soon as it was cool enough to handle--when long enough, she cut it into sweet-size pieces. The other sweets she used to make were reddish brown and had peanut in them.

The storeroom key was attached to a piece of smooth wood. The smell in that store room was heavenly! Especially the dried peaches [funny--I loved the smell in my grandmother's store room, when she had one. She kept onions there, for one thing].

Because you were the middle child, I was taken here and there with you to keep you company--I remember going to the Findleys in Sunnyside--I remember coming back from Johannesburg with your family one evening. You mother was trying to get Elise [my great aunt... my grandmother's sister] to sleep when I mentioned all the car lights. Of course Elise sat up to look--you can be sure I was not too popular!

I remember details in the house--the photographs of Ben and Rene’s children with their pink cheeks and blue eyes--And the photo of the Catherine after whom you were called--it was the Titanic in which she drowned, was it not [actually the Lusitania, I think]?

I remember the cosy atmosphere in front of the fire in the sitting room when your dad used to melt lead to make sinkers for his fishing. I can still see him pouring the lead into the tiny mould and before it cooled down, he put in a small hook.

When I was 6 and you 5, I spent a whole month at Hermanus with you--I remember the mussels, the seaweed jelly and the penguin eggs--And Voelklip-the rock from which your dad fell and broke his nose! You had to practice your music before we were allowed to play. I used to sit on the stool with you and we sang all the songs whilst you played.

Your Edison records and the diamond needle was the great attraction--with you I really loved the operas--music I never had at Sonop--The other night on TV, I looked at the Great Caruso with Miro Lanza--it was then that I decided to get hold of you.

At Sonop, we never had any family life--we hardly ever saw our parents--we had meals with a nursemaid--the only real family life I knew was at your place--Do you remember the mosquito nets and the citronella oil?

I hope you can read this--all my love--we had lovely times together when we were young.

Love, Eth [Ethelwyn]

Lovely, hey?

PS. The photo at the top is one of mine... I used some iPhoto tricks to give it an older style 'cos I thought it fit the mood.


Goof said...

Thanks for posting this Foof - it's very sweet.

Kirsty said...

What a precious gift! Thank you for sharing it. I have nominated you for the Lemonade Award :) so come read all about it.
PS got your card and letter, it was great to read, thank you!