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Charlie & Aunt Mary.jpg

Charlotte and Mary

So these are the buttons and buckles that erm were my Aunt’s. And I love them, I’ve always loved buttons. And I, I put them in this jar because they sit on my desk now and I can just look at them everyday. Yeah, I found the jar in a erm little antiquey shop, cos I wanted something nice to put them in. It’s not particularly old but it’s got a nice lid on and it, I think it does show them off well. So that’s Mary’s buttons and buckles. I had my Mother’s buttons, which I love, and it’s quite interesting now I’ve got her sister’s buttons as well. So erm, although my Mother wasn’t a sewer, Mary was a great sewer and I think perhaps that’s why there aren’t as many buttons as I got from my Mum. Cos I think Mary in the, in the time, times that she lived in, was a great one for make do and mend, so things got, got recycled and unlike my Mum’s buttons, I don’t know anything. I don’t know the history of any of these buttons. They’re all a mystery to me. Whereas my Mum’s buttons I grew up and I know them, I know them inside out but these are erm, these are a different story so to speak. 

Erm my cousin Becky, who’s Mary’s youngest daughter, knows how much I love buttons, and actually her Mother-in-law has just died and she’s lined up her Mother-in-law’s buttons for me as well. So, because Becky knows how much I love buttons and also that I’m probably the only sewer in, of our generation, she asked me if I’d like the buttons. And I felt quite er privileged to be given them, and she gave them to me. I spent a night, I went to stay with Becky in, in Mary’s cottage the week she died and it was just the two of us and it was really lovely. And, and for her to give me those buttons so soon and to have thought about me and to have given me the buttons so soon after she died, I thought it was really sweet of her to be thinkin’ of ya know, someone else outside of the grief that she was going through.

Sorry . . .

I value these buttons because they were Mary’s and she was such a special person to me. And she was quite a simple country girl really. She had a, a nice side but she didn’t erm, she wasn’t frivolous with her money. And she will love it that the buttons have gone to somebody who appreciates them, erm but probably won’t use very many of them because there aren’t any sets in there that I can see. But erm, I just think they’re, they’re a beautiful object. A lot of them are natural, made of shells and such like and you don’t see buttons like that anymore. I think buttons can really make a garment, certainly. We just don’t put so much thought into buttons anymore. So they are, they’re beautiful.

Yes I’ve chosen these buttons to talk about because they’re such a personal thing. I was actually, I have inherited a piece of furniture and it’s a beautiful table. And Mary was ill for a long time, she asked me to choose a piece of furniture and she picked out two or three pieces that she thought I, I might be interested in. So it was quite a hard thing to, to think about and then go back and say to her, "That’s the piece of
furniture I’d like." because you don’t really want to be, you know benefiting from somebody’s death. But I thought about it and decided, well she was putting her house in order, she wanted to sort things out and it was important to her. So I did go back and say well, "This is the table that I’d, ya know I’d love. Thank you very much." Erm, but I haven’t got it yet. It’s er still in the cottage where it belongs quite, quite frankly. But the buttons probably mean as much to me as anything could; they probably don’t hold much value to anybody else but to me they’re really precious. So that’s why I’ve chosen the buttons to talk about.

A couple of years ago when Mary was already quite ill, her son, her eldest son died just, just into the New Year; it was the first week of January. And Mary was a very strong, brave woman and it’s the only time I’ve ever seen her cry. Although she, she did put on a brave face and I would imagine she put on a braver face for her other three children than she did for me because that was our, the nature of our relationship. And when we went to bury Patrick, erm when we went into the church she’d picked a little, a simple posy of, of flowers from the garden. And I think we were all being quite brave about it but when, to see her walk up to the coffin and put the flowers on top of her son’s, her son’s coffin was, that was a very sad and difficult thing to see. But Mary taught me so much though her own illness and through the death of her son, so much  about strength and dignity. She was a truly amazing woman . . . sorry.

When I think of Mary, I think of sitting in her garden in the sunshine, in companionable silence. Quite often we’d sit up, ‘til the early hours sometimes, putting the world to right and we never ran out of things to talk about. Rarely really moaned about anything except possibly the fact they don’t teach sewing in school anymore. But also sitting in the garden just feeling the sun on our face, listening to the birds singing (and she lived opposite the church) and in the evening listening to the bells of the church ringing; was a lovely sound. And in fact she loved the sound of the church bells so much, she left some money to the church. And being the very meticulous person that she was and not wanting to be frivolous with her money, she spent a long time with the church warden in discussion, ensuring that the money didn’t go to anything else other than the, the church bells.

A happy memory I have of Mary was her ninetieth birthday. Erm, we’d known for about four years about her cancer and it was a particularly unpleasant cancer, and I don’t think any of us expected her to live and see her ninetieth birthday. And we had a lovely tea party in the village hall; about seventy people came and it was a real celebration of, of a life well lived and of a very lovely lady. And I think it was important for her children. It was something, once you’ve reached eighty and you get to eighty-five, you kind of think, oh maybe I’ll, I’ll reach ninety. And erm her children planned her tea party and I think it was important as a family for her children, that they were able to celebrate that - what they knew would be the last great
milestone of her, her life. Erm and she did only live for seven months after her ninetieth birthday.

I’m not, I don’t have a faith at all. So I haven’t considered too much where Mary has gone or if she’s joined her husband and her son. But for me the comfort is knowing that she lived for ninety years. She was a good woman and she, she has had, she’ll always be with me because she’s in my heart and she’s in my head. Where else she may be, who knows? But . . . and she taught me so much about dignity and about family, the strength of family. And I, although she was my Aunt, I would have chosen her as a friend; it was never a, a chore to go and see her, it was always, always a happy, happy time. I used to love staying there, her house was like her - it was warm and loving. And everybody who went to her cottage loved being there because she was such a lovely, lovely lady. So I draw comfort from the fact that thankfully she had a long life and through, by her own example, by the example of the life she led, she bought up four amazing, warm, loving children.

So for me it’s the legacy of what she’s left behind, how she touched other people. That’s what matters. I don’t know how I would have dealt with it if, if it had been somebody much younger who had died, but I don’t think you can be too sad when somebody lives to ninety and then they go. Especially as in her final weeks, final month, she was in so much suffering and she was a shadow of herself and it was, you couldn’t have wanted her to possibly carry on living as she was, because it was, it was not nice for her and it wasn’t nice for the people who loved her to see her in so much suffering. She went at the time that was right for her really. 

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