Precious memories are triggered by the most mundane, peculiar things – a sound, a smell, an object – seemingly ordinary things that encapsulate emotions and memories so strong and powerful within us that they no longer remain ordinary but rather special. I have been thinking today about two very very special people whom I think are perfectly summed up by Toby jugs, tobacco and banana sandwiches! Those three things that mean nothing of any real significance to most of you reading this evoke some of my most pleasurable memories from childhood and so today I choose to honour them and their memory in this post. They are my paternal Grandparents.
(Clara Annice Batters [1914-1998] and James Edward Edwards [1914-1984])
Oh my how I loved my Grandma and Granddad but I’m not alone in that. They were very much loved by everyone I could think of and probably all those I couldn’t think of too! No-one could say a bad word about them – just a genuinely lovely couple who for me epitomized everything that you would want Grandparents to be.
As he left for work this morning my husband said “Why don’t you write about Clara or Annice today – are they two people or one?” My husband, bless him, doesn’t share the same passion that I do for family history but supports me in my addiction. He gets lost and confused in the details of his own family let alone mine so it was quite impressive that he had remembered both names of my Grandma even if he didn’t remember that they were one and the same person. That remark was all it took to have me thinking about Grandma and Granddad all day and then I came across an image of some of my family taken way back with my Grandparents. This is how I remember them and the floodgates opened for a spell today and then a smile!
(Grandma and Granddad with family)
My Granddad – James Edward Edwards, born in 1914 died when I was just 13 but he left a mark upon me that has only grown over the years not diminished. Grandma, also born in 1914 died 14 years after him. They were married when they were both 20 and were married for 50 years – my Granddad hung in for that celebration and died just two weeks later. An interesting fact in their family history is that Grandma’s sister Doris married Granddad’s brother Fred. Dear Granddad – you can tell by how tightly my younger sister has him in her grip just how much he was loved. He is the Toby jug and tobacco man – those things trigger warm feelings of affection in me. Grandma was banana sandwiches and inspires equal affection.
I could speak for days on them but I shall endeavour to paint a picture of them that does them justice in a brief setting. Their home was always open – literally! If they were at home, their door was open and we never had to knock and wait to be let in. You would bypass the front door, go through their garden gate and enter the house through the side door which led into their kitchen which is where you would always find Grandma, always wearing a housecoat like you see in the picture (it was her pinny!) and always with a smile and a hug. Granddad was always in the living room sat in “his” chair which was a proper upholstered, deeply comfortable, sliding rocking chair. (Once you sat in it, you never got out!) The house was always warm because whatever the weather and whatever the season he would have a fire on and that was the place where the littlest grandchildren would lay outstretched on the rug in front of the fire. That is also the place where Granddad kept his collection of Toby jugs. I don’t think now he was a massive collector of them but he had enough to adorn the shelves by the fireplace so when I went to visit and lay outstretched by the fire, I noticed them and was deeply fascinated by them to the point now that I can’t see a Toby jug without thinking of Granddad. He was a smoker too but he didn’t smoke cigarettes he was a pipe smoker and to this day I adore the smell of pipe tobacco! I would sit on his knee or by him as he cleaned out and re-filled his pipe – his fingers would be stained yellow from pushing the leaves in but there was something very warming and comforting about the smell of his tobacco – it smelt of Granddad – it was his smell which stayed with him even when he wasn’t smoking so when I smell it now I’m that little girl again back on Granddad’s knee in a place of safety and comfort! He had time for each and every single one of us (…and there were a lot of us!) whether it was playing ball in the garden or taking us round his tomato plants in his greenhouse or lifting us up on his shoulders to see over his tall garden fence to look over onto the playing fields that his house backed onto. I wish he’d remained longer on this earth and that my children could have known him. It is strange to think that there are members of my family that do not have any of the memories that I have of that wonderful man.
Grandma was the homemaker and truly the heart of the home. She fed us up at every visit on banana sandwiches or sometimes corned beef sandwiches and if you think there is no skill in that then you are mistaken. Nobody made banana sandwiches like her – except for my dad, who was her son and thankfully inherited that gene! There is definitely an art to making a decent sandwich and Grandma had it – her sandwiches were oh so memorable and worthy of an award! It wasn’t the only thing she could make – she was a fantastic cook and responsible for teaching my mum (and consequently myself) how to make a gravy that makes a meal amazing! She had a toothless smile with an infectious laugh and was the softest, kindest woman you have ever met. I had a liking for her mysterious pantry which now of course, I know wasn’t mysterious at all, just an ordinary pantry but as a child it was a magical room I went in and always came out with biscuits or cake or some other treat to delight. If Granddad was Toby jugs then Grandma was coloured glass. She had a similar impressive collection of of coloured glass ornaments like fish and birds and vases. When she died, I inherited one of her pieces and I love it. It’s dated and doesn’t really go with anything in the house but I would never part with it because of the memories associated with it. Whenever we left her house after a visit Grandma would stand at her door and wave us off and she would stand there waving until we were dots on the horizon, something I find myself doing now with family.
They were special people, humble, grounded, salt of the earth types but generous in love and affection – so very very adored. They left behind a fantastic legacy of 7 children, 15 Grandchildren and goodness knows how many Great and Great Great Grandchildren there are at the time of writing this but the values they taught and the things they stand for they would be proud to see remain strong in all of us – they have been an incredible example to all of us that remain and remember.
(16 Jun 1984 – Golden Wedding Anniversary)