My English grandma and I, the summer my dad flew her out to visit us, 1966, something like nine years since we'd seen her, four or five, I think, since she'd been widowed. My Dad loved her dearly and always laughed that, as the baby (of ten!) he'd been "the apple of my mother's eye." But there hadn't been money for that kind of travel while he and my mother were growing their very large family. In the photo above, I'm the eldest of ten (two foster sisters) and there'd be two more born after this.
I'm resorting to a photo today because I'm having a very tough time finding time, energy, or will to manage much blogging (and I've been tempted by the Throwback Thursday meme for some time). So it wouldn't make sense for me to write the essay that begins to shape itself as I sit at this keyboard, looking at this photo on the screen. No time. No time! (Marking essays that have to be returned to students, no room for delay, and my weekend is jam-packed with family activities.)
Isn't she cute, my little grandma from Yorkshire? I absolutely loved her, although (or perhaps because) I had only three visits with her that I can remember, two others beyond those curtains that block early memories away. On this visit, I remember, I admired a nightie she wore and so she left it for me. I kept it in a drawer for years and years, wearing it only when I wanted a special comfort, worrying that I'd worn her smell right out of it. . .
But honestly, it wasn't a desire to dress like her that inspired me here. In 1966, the craze for the flowered calico of simpler days was a side-effect of the whole "Back to the Garden" movement. I was obviously far from aspiring to Hippiedom, at 13, but believe it or not, that "granny dress" was a much-coveted fashion item at the time. (after my visit to England the following year, when I got a full blast of the Carnaby Street effect via a cooler older cousin, my hems rose by perhaps half a foot!)
Don't you love the knee socks with the dress and those dark shoes? And the bag absolutely slays me! Where did I get that? Why was I carrying it? Did I buy it with baby-sitting money? And if so, did I buy it new or at one of the rummage sales my mom was so expert at shopping? Was I at all aware of how close my pose, with this shape of bag, is to my 80-something Grandma's? And if so, could I possibly have been pleased?
An essay lurks; it's trying to insinuate itself onto this very screen, so many possibilities for talking about what this photo reveals and for what it doesn't. At the very least, I'd want to write about how fondly I still remember her almost 50 years after the photo was taken, more than 40 years after she died. What a big influence she had on me despite us only spending such a small time together. And what a responsibility I feel to convey some sense of her to the great-great-grandchildren she might once have imagined.
However, those student essays aren't going to mark themselves, so my essay will just have to wait. . . . Someday, I'd love to tell you more. For now, do you remember granny dresses? Or was I just fooling myself, naive little 13-year-old that I was, thinking I'd wheedled my parents into buying me a bit of Style (didn't happen often, I tell you, my mother having a strong preference for the Classic and an even stronger one for us being Leaders, not Followers)? And perhaps you have a fond memory or two of some time with your grandmother. Or a fond or not-so-fond sartorial memory of your early style choices. Comments, as you know, are always very welcome.