A while ago Heather asked us to consider what we would pack into the bag we will take into our future. The first thing I am packing into my bag is stories.
Here’s a story I’ve pieced together over the past couple of weeks. It could be termed a faction.
Way back in rural England in the 1840s there was a well to do landowner named Samuel. Samuel was a very serious, proud and pious man. Some would say he was overly pious. When he was a young man Samuel penned a letter to his sister. Samuel is my great, great grandfather and I read a copy of this letter just a week ago. For some reason I don’t understand letters and documents pertaining to Samuel’s life have been typed up and bound together in a book that can be viewed at the graveyard in England where Samuel is buried. My sister photocopied them in the 1980s.
I have forgotten Samuel’s sister’s name but it was something that sounded like Ninny or Dippy or even Silly. In his letter Samuel waxed lyrical about God and the power of prayer for several paragraphs. He then wrote that Ninny had a piece of pickled pork that their other sister Annie had left for him at Ninny’s house. Samuel explains that he has called at Ninny’s several times for this pork but she is never home. “I will call every Monday until I find you home,” he tells her in very stern nineteenth century language.
Samuel then reverts to writing about God and the power of prayer for several more paragraphs then delivers this blunt postscript.
“I wilt give unto thee the nutmeg grater that belonged to our dear mother and shall even pass onto thee for safe keeping mother’s spectacles if I can find them,” he wrote. “You must give unto me dearest mother’s sugar bowl. I trust thou wilt give this unto me. I shall now spend the day in prayer and fasting.”
A few years later a rough and poorly educated woman named Priscilla and her common law husband Thomas were embroiled in some shady land deal that somehow involved Samuel. To escape the wrath of the law Priscilla and Thomas fled to Australia with their nine children.
One of those children was named Eliza. In the early 1860s she returned to England and wrote to her mother Priscilla telling her she wanted to visit Samuel and his family. Priscilla wrote back cautioning to Eliza to be careful not to disclose her mother’s whereabouts for she feared being forced to return to England. Although there are no letters describing exactly what happened then there are documents that indicate Eliza married Samuel’s son, Herbert very soon afterwards.
While there is no documentary evidence, family legend has it that Herbert had a serious falling out with his father Samuel and fled to Australia in the late 1860s. He and Eliza purchased land on the outskirts of Melbourne, built a house and had my grandfather . In time my grandfather married and built his own house at the far end of the property. My father was born late in his life and grew up in the house his father had built. As a child I stayed in that house many times until the land was sold to a developer and the house pulled down after my grandfather had died. Much of the furniture, china and old books that are now in my father’s house came from grandfather’s place.
My own father died very recently. My brothers (who are both serious, proud and rather pious in a New Age kind of way) and sister (who’s name also begins with A) have banded together to claim all kinds of latter day nutmeg graters and sugar bowls. They are also adamant that they receive the twenty first century equivalent of pieces of pickled pork. The aspect of my character that corresponds with that of a Ninny, Dippy or Silly sister got quite emotional over all this. Luckily I am a woman of my time and came of age during 1970s feminism. The Ninny in me dried her eyes, asserted her personality and left, her dignity only partly in tatters. Oh and by the way, I left them to the nutmeg graters, sugar bowls and pieces of pickled pork. The lawyers can sort it all according to my father’s wishes.
That is the first story I will pack in my bag. Make of it what you will.