Hello, Goodbye

It’s Thursday night and we’re printing out memorial sheets for the service tomorrow. Some of you will know (but not many as I’ve been unable to actually speak about it to more than a few) that K’s Mum, Marnie’s beloved Gran and my not so wicked Mother In Law is gone, she left us last Thursday. She had cancer, she was so ill, in true tradition of me, I chose to ignore that and convinced myself she would get better, a family can’t survive without it’s backbone.

Last Friday I walked around lost, not really knowing what the point to life is now – a spare room with no one to stay. 500 plants and 600 cats that now have no home. A woman that was cut so cruelly at her prime, just when she was starting to really find her independence and confidence, she was truly finally enjoying her life. A person that I can’t believe will not be a part of not only Marnie’s growing up but also my own. Our family is gone.

I’m not going to lie and say our relationship was always easy, I didn’t really know her properly until Marnie was almost here and her opinions were strong. Tired, disorientated me was always on the back foot and I spent a lot of our early years feeling totally dominated by a matriarchal mother of 3 boys that didn’t really understand me – a surprise, full time working new mother, in a job that’s really freaking hard, that I had no choice but to go back to months after birth because I had a mortgage to pay. Doesn’t mean I didn’t love her though and as the years passed we began to understand, respect and love each other little by little. She’s a struggler, she dragged herself through her life which wasn’t easy as a single Mum of 3 but somehow always managed to provide everything needed through her own self sacrifice, hard work and limitless love. I never once heard her moan about her lot, never once did she say she regretted things and wished them different.

Thursday was Gran day so it’s somewhat fitting that that’s the day she chose to leave us. K and I coined a phrase for Gran’s Thursday visits due to her eagerness to help around the house which wasn’t always successful, “the help that doesn’t help”. Things would be rearranged so you couldn’t find them, she would seemingly spend all day doing chores, only to present us when we got home with a massive, useless pile of ironed pants and socks (ironing was her favourite job whilst watching CSI all day) and would try and make us a nice hot meal, forgetting that vegetables were a major part of any diet and thinking that mountains of salt were. She was so eager to make our lives any easier if she could, she loved having Marnie to stay in Largs to give us a break and Marnie loved staying with her, she just would have done anything we needed at her sacrifice, no questions asked. It was a god send knowing she was there and that it made her day to be able to help us out in any way she could.

Last year she was diagnosed with blood cancer, a ferocious beast at best but really not so good when you’re of a certain age, she fought and took all her treatment in good humour. Unfortunately in early December the cancer really took a turn for the worse and she was admitted to the Beatson after staying with us for the weekend of Etsy Made Local. She was in such a state and I will feel forever guilty that we never noticed. They pumped her with chemo and patched her up to some resemblance of the Gran we once knew. They massaged and pampered her back to health and she was lifted by regular visits from her walking group friends. Christmas was spent in the Beatson where things really were starting to look hairy and this was to be the repeat exhausting pattern for the next few months, well for a bit and being allowed home, followed by a catastrophic dive and rush back to hospital. Still rather naively I thought it would all work out OK.

Last week we received the call to say that was it – say your goodbyes – the end. Still I didn’t believe it, someone that strong will surely survive. Everyone was at the hospital, I caught the train to Inverclyde after dropping Marnie at school to say my farewell. I didn’t make it in time, I was 20 minutes late, K met me at the station to tell me she had gone. My world imploded, I shall miss her dearly.

From the biggest branch to the smallest leaf

Those of you who are my friends on Facebook will know about my strange Ebay discovery a while back- an old postcard sent to my grandparents in 1936 from a lady called Rose. I was freaked out and excited at the same time to find it – how on earth did it end up for sale on a international marketplace and also how did I manage to discover it amongst the (actual stat) one billion things on Ebay?

It’s got me thinking about family and who I am. Why do I love vintage and nostalgia so much? The fact I was searching for the postcard in the first place proves I am 1000% my Grandad’s Granddaughter. He was an expert treasure hunter (or toot collector as it’s known by some people, like my Mum).

He loved finding things on the street, going to jumble sales and discovering bargains in junk shops. Grandad made up for lack of monetary riches with a wealth of generosity. He always put up a Christmas tree with little presents hanging for the kids who lived on the road where members of my family lived in Leytonstone. The tree was filled with little bits, some second hand, some from the bargain shop, but everyone got a gift. On this tree there were always special presents for my cousin Surindar, my little sister Amber and myself to be given first, things he had singled out for his girls, special finds. I still have a very ornate precious vintage dressing table set he gifted from a junk shop, a 1940s rubber doll who came from a jumble sale called Pat, she was one of my favourites growing up despite being sooooo old fashioned and also a tin of beads he had collected over time from the streets of East London. That was my first business venture, making bracelets from those beads, I still have loads of them left, too special to sell. Nothing was worth much money or had cost a lot, he didn’t have a lot, but it’s all worth a million dollars compared to the contrasting, overly extravagant gifts we exchange these days. 

When he died, we found in the box room of my Grandparents small terrace house, boxes of presents waiting for people. It didn’t need to be a special occasion, he was just excited to make people happy any day of the year. He was a lovely, kind, warm and generous man.

I’m not crediting myself with having inherited any of these noble qualities from him but the treasure hunter gene is one I most definitely have. I wonder if he would have liked a shop of his own, nevertheless there is a lot of him is in my wee shop. If he was still alive I think he would have enjoyed helping me find the stuff I sell, it’s kind of a joint business even if he’s not here anymore, his impact is so strong. My love of vintage, nostalgia and hatred of our wasteful culture has definitely come directly from his influence. I have so much sentiment in me and that’s all come from him.

My store recently has had some lovely stories of precious items reunited with the person they are meant to be with. I sent a stuffed monkey to a lady in California who had lost all her worldly possessions in the wildfires. The start of her rebuilding her life was when she found a replacement of her precious favourite toy in my shop. Many people buy my vintage ornaments and trinkets because they remember them from their childhood, many are also bought as replacements for broken sentimental treasures. I thank all of my customers who take the time to write to me these stories of where the items I sell are ending up and how much they mean to the people they are gifted to. I love the fact that I play a part in helping something previously unloved on it’s journey to the right person, talking of which let’s get back to the postcards that clearly belong with me…

The Ebay listing never showed the front’s of the cards, there was just a picture of the back , they were being sold for genealogy purposes not sentimental. I was so excited for them to arrive. The front would clear up maybe who Rose was and why she was writing to my Grandparents. So now I can reveal….. the postcards fronts…..

It’s amazing to have them back in my possession, back where they belong. Another treasure discovered, but for once these ones belong with me.