Families, Family, Inspiration, Laughter, loss, love, real life, women

Mother

Tomorrow we say goodbye to my mother-in-law Maureen. She has been with me through the fun times, through silly times, the sad times of loss and the happy times of marriage and children.

I knew her longer than I knew my own mother. My father in law graciously gave me away at our wedding as I had already lost my dad and my lovely mum. We are a family unit and always will be. I wanted to write something for her funeral to be read out, but didn’t have the courage to do something, so I wrote something for my hubby – her adorable son – to write on the card for her flowers from us.

You will always be my mother
and I’ll miss you every day.
I’ll miss your disposition
and the thoughtful things you say.

Your gentle touch and shining eyes
will just be a glimpse away.
I won’t ever forget you mum -
here in my heart each day.

And of course I write this for my mother – who I miss every day.

<a href="http://<span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@franho?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Francesca Ho</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/yellow-flower?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a&gt;http://<span>Photo by <a href=”https://unsplash.com/@franho?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText”>Francesca Ho</a> on <a href=”https://unsplash.com/s/photos/yellow-flower?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText”>Unsplash</a></span&gt;

Standard
Family, genealogy, history, Inspiration, loss, real life, Uncategorized, women, Writing

My history and I

Our holiday this year has been arranged around two old postcards that were written by my grandmother Elizabeth Williams in 1954 to my mother. She was born in 1887, in a small village in the middle of Carmarthen called Trefeurig. It was a rural area, not many houses, lots of miners lived and worked in the area. Her father Richard Williams who was born in 1860 was one of those miners, he died at a relatively young age of 30 in 1890. At the time her mother had a young baby of 9 months (called Richard), two young sons of 4years old (Luther)  and a 2 year old (Thomas) and her daughter Elizabeth  – my grandmother.

Richard’s parents were Thomas and Margaret Williams. Thomas was born in about 1813. He married Margaret Williams, who was about 3 years younger than he was, and in total had 5 children. 4 sons, and 1 daughter. This is where our history becomes very confusing. The children were called Elizabeth (19), John (16) Thomas (8) Methusalem (8) and finally Richard the youngest at 1 year old – my great grandfather- Elizabeth’s father. Names were handed down in families hence the same names appearing in two generations of family.

Generally around that time children came along on a very regular basis due to the lack of birth control, normally one a year. So it is probably likely there were some still births in this and many other families, who have not be registered on the census records of 1861 that these details have come from.

The post cards I have kept for many years were written to my mum and dad in 1954. They are of two places that my grandmother had visited on her trip to west wales. It doesn’t say where she was staying, but as this place is so very near to the place her family originated from, it was highly likely that she was staying with some family.

She tells her daughter and her son-in law (my mam and dad) about the places she has visited.

‘having a lovely time out each afternoon, pity dad bach isn’t with me. I have all the places on a paper. went to Aberystwyth yesterday 10in the morning. Called at ^^^^^^ bungalow 9 of them there, very nice. a scorching afternoon after the rain, and returned Newquay we intend going to Tenby tomorrow. St Dogmails is a lovely place you get town and country here. Sat will soon be  here now hope you are both feeling good.Let us know what time to expect you home on sat. hope you have good digs I will not write again now. Kindest regards from Elfyn and Mena. fondest love mam xx and in the margin .our church marked with a spot (dogmael) ‘

I have had these postcards in my possession since my grandmother died in 1978 when she was about 92. I’ve never taken that much notice of what they were, they were just two sepia  postcards, that she had written. 4 years ago I started researching my family tree, and they became a big part of the jigsaw. She said that she was with Elfyn (her son) and his wife Mena. I had found that they lived near to his place. And in fact Elfyn had died the year I was born in 1960, in this area. On the card she makes reference to dad bach, her husband, or in those days the husband was known as dad. He had died just before this card was written.

So why am I telling you all this? Well – we decided that our holiday would be a great opportunity to visit this village where the post cards were from. We researched a local hotel, booked the break, and this story is built around the postcards.

The Cliff Hotel overlooks Poppit Sands in Cardigan. The Teify Estuary leads out to the Irish sea, Poppit Sands is on one side, and the Cliff Hotel is on the other side There is a coast guard station there, a café that does the most amazing Bara Bryth. a selection of Holiday homes, and a YHA (Youth Hostel Association) place to stay. We drove round the estuary, and parked the car in the little car park. We had a coffee in the café, and then walked onto the beach. The wide expanse of golden sand, peppered with little flecks of black and tiny pebbles and discarded cockle shells. Although it was a damp day, it certainly didn’t deter the dog walkers, dogs don’t mind the rain or the wet as they jumped in and out of the waves.

My heart soared, as I thought that this was a beach that my grandmother  (or nain as she was known to her grand children) had walked on. Of course I’d been to many places with her as I grew up with her  and she lived with us until she passed away when I was 18. I could imagine her with her son, and daughter in law travelling around in a little car, looking at the same view I was looking at. Maybe sitting in the same sea side café, and if I know my nain, eating the same cake I was eating, she had  a sweet tooth! Probably where I get it from. Of course I’d been to many places with her, she had lived with our family from when I was 8 so I grew up with her until she passed away when I was 18.

I’d like to think that she went there to gain some comfort from family, having recently been widowed. And although back in the mining communities of the early part of the last century, you appreciate that death was a part of their lives – mining accidents, and child mortality being a more regular occurrence than today – I don’t think they were so hardened to it that they were void of sadness and distress.

We then went to St Dogmaels. A quaint village perched on the mountain side. Winding streets with little houses brightly coloured cling to the mountain, and tumbled down the hill. The 60 year old picture on the post card looked nothing like the village of today, and it was difficult to find out anything that appeared on the card, so we went to the ruins of the Abbey with a little heritage centre that has a lovely café inside.

I kept this post card in my hand trying to find any reference to anything we had seen. Then when I looked for the umpteenth time, it was like a light bulb moment. There on the post card in the middle were the ruins. I had never seen them like this before – I thought they were houses. It all fell into place, and although the village on the card didn’t look like the village in 2016, the trees were more overgrown, and there of course were newer properties in the sight line I could see the village of 1955.

What an amazing day, I look some pictures of the houses in the village, as a reminder of our trip. We walked through the car park to the banks of the estuary, we saw a heron trying to catch some lunch for himself, a young man getting ready for the St Dogmaels market which is held on a Tuesday, where sellers and buyers travel from near and far.

I will go back, and visit this magical and historical place again.

Standard
Family, Inspiration, Laughter, mental health, real life

In celebration of a life.

A day to celebrate – today is my mams birthday. She hasn’t been with us now for 25 year, she died on 1st April 1990, but I spend time each year thinking about her, her life, her commitment to us as a family, her health, and most of all the fun and love she shared.

She was born in the 1920’s, one of 5 brothers and sisters, to a miner and his wife. A relatively small family compared to some others in the South Wales Valleys at the time. She left Wales to work in London as a secretary, but as fate would dictate, she soon came back to the relative safety of Wales when the war broke out. She met my dad after the War, and in 1950 they married. They weren’t lucky enough to have children of their own, but I’m very fortunate they adopted me in 1960.

Life certainly wasn’t kind to them, in fact the opposite! My dad had an accident in work – he was caught up in a factory fire. His physical and mental health was affected, and he never really worked again. He had already suffered during and after the war – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – although then it was called shell shock, and the loss of his beloved mum had toppled him over the edge. My mam nursed him back to health, and looked after him. She made sure he took his medication, attended numerous outpatients’ hospital appointments, weekly blood tests and physiotherapy sessions. She supported him each time his health deteriorated, and made some heartbreaking decisions along the road. Un-relentless, un-flappable and always smiling. She made the very best of a bad situation.

Then she became ill, and was diagnosed as Bi-polar. They have such simple names now for something that was at the time called manic depression – that summed it up far more succinctly! At the time they told my dad he had the same illness, and even though I’m not a professional he wasn’t ill in the same way as mam was. You needed patients and encouragement with dad, quiet conversation, and letting him get on with his life the way he wanted to. Mam just wanted to stay in bed, and she did – for days, week and even months at some stage. Anywhere between 6-12 weeks was the norm for the cycle whether she was ‘up or down’. You never knew when she was going to change; you just knew it was going to be a roller coaster ride once she was ‘better’.

She became obsessed with shopping. You had no idea what she would come home with! It was lucky that our financial circumstances dictated the amount of stuff she would buy; there was very little money to go round. She came home one day from a jumble sale with a black bag of clothes, I though that day we had got off lightly. Little did I know that rest of the items were being delivered by a friend in a van later that afternoon. There were 10 bags of clothes, and 3 pieces of furniture. My poor dad and I had got used to it, his job was to stay calm, cool and generally out of the picture, and mine was to help sort, wash, and re bag up things she had decided she didn’t want, and arrange for them to go back to the next jumble sale. The clothes she wanted were carefully stored away in the 3 wardrobes she had.

Do you think it sounds a bleak life? It was my life, I knew nothing different, and we lived like this for 10 years until I moved away to London to work. Then my mam and dad carried on until 9 years later my lovely dad died. It took mam 18 months to decide to sell up the house, and move to a small flat. Luckily I had some very good and patient friends who helped move her. The move wasn’t the hardest part; the de- cluttering was the hardest! Of course she had no one to keep her in check once my dad had died, and so the 3 wardrobes had expanded to more. My friend Alison and I helped her to pack, she wanted to take it all, but of course she couldn’t.

You wonder why I’m babbling on, wasn’t this meant to be in celebration of my mams life. I’m sure you are saying it wasn’t much of a life, but that’s not for you to judge. Let me tell you the funny things I remember about her and why I celebrate her life like this. She loved yellow, all things yellow! We had yellow or gold curtains – in every room, yellow flowers everywhere, yellow cups, yellow towels; she and I wore yellow clothes, and my dad the odd yellow shirt. Our dinner service was yellow, and all the paintwork was yellow too. The house was bright and summery in the darkest winter, and in the worst times of her illness. She sang at every opportunity. At every TV program, whether there was signing in it or not, when she was well she would sing when she spoke to you, if she was on her own it kept her company. She was quite short, and petite enough for me to pick up and hug whenever I came home, like a little doll really, delicate and made of china. Her faith was a big part of her life, and this again gave her the opportunity to sing.

My most favorite story was just before she passed away, her last Christmas with us. As a family we had decided to go for Christmas to Bruge on a coach. The family consisted of my soon to be fiancé, his parents, and his granny. We thought that granny and my mam would get on well, so we asked them to share a room to which they agreed. After a long journey there fraught with a few disasters, we finally arrived in Bruges. I wasn’t surprised at her enthusiasm; she tried everything under the sun. The strange food – jellied ells being one of them. We had a great few days, we loved the time together as a family, and we were all so pleased that mam and granny had got on so well. The last morning came; we went to check out, my father in law preparing to pay the room bills. He nearly fell over at how much theirs was! They had a great time, afternoon tea in the room each day, they had drunk the mini bar dry – on more than one occasion – and had room service each night before going to bed, sandwiches cake you name it! They thought it was all free, and so made the most of it. Of course we never told either one of them, and every time we reminisce about the past – that story comes out without fail.

And the photo at the top of the page, yes that’s my lovely mam, on the holiday in Bruges, at the Christmas dinner table, with a cigarette in her mouth. No she didn’t smoke but she did on that holiday!

Standard