Today marks the anniversary of my aunt’s funeral; Mum’s sister and god mother to me and my sister. I am named after her but I only ever called her Marraine instead of Tante (aunt) M-A probably to save confusion about us sharing the same name!
When Mum came over from France to marry dad many moons ago, my aunt and uncle continued to live in the house built by my grandfather, and they remained there until she died. You might have seen from a previous post that I moved about quite a bit as a child, so I always felt ‘the French house’ was a constant in my life and would always be there.
Not so unfortunately…
If I close my eyes now, I can see the layout of the place; the local rocks that my grandfather studded the front of the house with, the enormous fir trees by the front wall that were brought back as small cuttings from a visit to Chamonix by my grandmother (they exist still), the steep slope to the garage underneath the house, the large cellar where my uncle kept his wine collection, the tiny garret attic that led off the bedroom I shared with my sister, which was an Aladdin’s Cave full of curiosities dating back many, many, many years, etc, etc.
Whenever we went to France for Christmas, my aunt would get out little toys in readiness for me and put them in our bedroom; a furry black cat, a figure of Walt Disney’s Bambi and a doll with long brown hair and an orange dress. Toys that when I think about them, take me back to those carefree days when being an adult with all the responsibilities that came with it, were way off into the future.
We would sit at the table for hours over meal times, in the typical French fashion and I would let the language wash over me as I sat and listened to them. I watched my glamour puss aunt and Mum become more animated as they talked. Dad could speak fluent French so he never had any trouble joining in with them and as their conversations continued the voices would get louder and louder and more wine would be poured. Meals that consisted of about four to five courses and my bottom would be numb by the time I was allowed to leave the table!
The place had a unique smell upon entering that was, well I cannot describe, it but it was not bad in any way. It was a mixture of my uncle’s pipe/cigar smoke, my aunt’s perfume, delicious cooking and other things, utterly evocative that I know would make me cry if I was to be hit by it now. That house was everything to me as a kid and the thought that it would no longer contain my beautiful, vibrant aunt was like a knife to my heart.
Mum sold the house after her sister died, it needed so much doing to it and we just did not have the cash but it was heartbreaking for all of us and especially Mum as she saw it being built when she was a child. The one thing she made damn sure not to forget to bring back with her when clearing the house, were a few pieces of the rock that studded the front wall. My uncle moved out to live in the house that at first had been their holiday home.
You might also be asking why I am writing this, well I mentioned in my first blog that I write poetry and as I had done for Dad’s funeral, I wanted to write a poem for Marraine. So, on the morning of the funeral, as I was sitting at the kitchen table waiting for everyone, I wrote the poem that is at the end of this post and made a copy of it to tuck into the coffin when we went to say our last goodbyes.
I am not a fantastic poet; it’s all experimental as far as I am concerned and I am still on a learning curve. Inspiration can pop into my head at the oddest moments and I have written nearly 200 poems since I started covering a variety of subjects, some more sentimental than others. However, poems like this one and the one I wrote for Dad’s funeral are obviously the more emotional for me to write.
I wish I could have seen you more
Shared your sorrow, shared your joy
Communicated as I ought
Sent you letters as I had been taught
But death has claimed yet one more face
One less in the human race
One more from my family tree
Will it end with only me?
My sorrow for your passing’s great
But rest assured at heaven’s gates
The other family wait for you
And bring you home as you pass through.