Jackie and Auntie Chris
The object that I have is a chair covered in teddy bear fabric. And I inherited it from my Godmother who I had quite a, she lives, lived a long way away but erm, had quite a special relationship with her I guess. And she passed away a couple of years ago. She had cancer and she was under the care of Christie’s Hospital Manchester, and she fought a long and hard battle with cancer. And erm yeah, she died a couple of, a couple of years ago and I inherited the chair from her.
She didn’t leave it to me in her will, the sort of history behind the chair was I, when I first finished university I lived in the Midlands. I lived in Stoke-on-Trent and my Godmother and her husband lived in, lived in Macclesfield. And so they used to come, we’d go out for Sunday lunch quite a bit. And I went to stay with them one weekend and we just went round the shops, I think in Cheshire, and er, she saw this chair with the teddy bear fabric. But it wasn’t that chair, it was like a children . . . a small children’s armchair. And the reason why we were in the furniture shop in the first place was that she had this old chair that she wanted to get re-covered. And she obviously saw the small child’s armchair and my (I call them aunt and uncle, they’re not my aunt and uncle but they’re Auntie Chris and Uncle Norman), erm my Uncle Norman was like, "You’re not havin’ that!" erm "You can’t possibly have a child’s armchair. I don’t, where are we gonna put it?" And then she thought ohh, I’ll ask if I can have my chair re-covered in the teddy bear fabric. So I was with her when she kind of selected this fabric to get her chair re-covered in.
Erm and when she passed away, I was in Australia at the time. I wasn’t, I wasn’t here and so I wasn’t able to go to her funeral. And I found that quite a difficult experience that I wasn’t in the country when she passed away. I knew she was very, very poorly and before she died I’d been in Manchester visiting family and I’d been able to go and visit her in hospital and say goodbye. But I just, I dunno, I kind of had always thought I’d see her that one last time and not thought that that would be the last time. I guess maybe in the back of the mind I knew but . . . I said to my Uncle Norman, "Is it possible that I could have the teddy bear chair? Not now necessarily but maybe could you leave it to me when you pass away?" But he’s obviously given it to me now. He’s still around, I saw him yesterday strangely. Erm and yeah, he gave it to me and asked me di. . . was there anything else that I wanted? And I said, "No, nothing else that I want of hers, just the . . ." Cos I have this memory associated with all of us going shopping and she wasn’t ill then and it just, yeah, takes me back to that time when we went shopping together. And that’s how I remember my life when I’d just, was in my early twenties and bit carefree, and eating Sunday lunch with them. And just happy memories. So, yeah that’s how I acquired it, was the fact that I asked for it. Just she’d passed away and that’s the one thing of hers that I wanted.
I dunno, when you think of things that are acquired through death, I guess you think of more traditional things, like jewellery or an heirloom that’s been in the family many, many years. But I chose the object cos it’s a little, a little bit different, but also because it has a significant memory. And I remember that day really clearly, that we, erm my Uncle Norman doesn’t remember, he doesn’t remember us going shopping, picking this fabric. He doesn’t, he doesn’t remember at all. So when I asked for the chair he said, "I, I, I don’t, I don’t remember you being there." and I said, "Oh do you not remember when I came to stay for the weekend and Auntie Chris put the chair specifically in the spare room so it was in the room I was staying in?" he was like, "No!" So he’s got no recollection of that time. But erm, yeah that’s why I picked it, just cos it’s the, quite a recent (well recent, ‘bout twelve years ago) memory. But a happy memory, rather than, yeah I’ve got jewellery of my Nana’s but the memory of my obtaining those objects is quite sad. After her funeral me and my cousin that were left her jewellery kind of selecting the pieces of jewellery and that to me, that feels a sad memory. But that’s why I picked it cos it’s a happy memory.
No, I didn’t know when I, we went shopping, I didn’t ever know that I was going to own it. I liked it, obviously I was maybe in on the act in persuading my Uncle Norman that he wanted teddy bear covered seats . . . but erm I didn’t, I didn’t know that I was, that I would own it. But obviously again, I did ask for it, it wasn’t left to me per say. I could have asked, my Uncle Norman said I could ask for anything that I wanted, but that was the thing that I asked for.
I don’t use it; I don’t sit on it. I don’t erm, it has actually been at my parent’s for quite a while, since I obtained it, and I guess I’ll put it in my son’s nursery. But erm, my cat sits on it but I don’t sit on it. I put things on it. I don’t, yeah I don’t sit on it. I don’t know why, I just don’t sit on it. But I know when, when my Auntie Chris was kind of in the end stages of her cancer, my Uncle Norman used to pull it up to the side of the bed and he would sit in that chair talkin’ to her. Just kinda before she passed away, that was the chair that they had in their bedroom that he would sit next to her and read or. . . Erm I don’t know why I, I don’t know if I’ll ever sit in it. Cos I, it feels so precious that it’s almost like, ooh, I don’t, I don’t know that I ought to sit on it.
How would I describe Auntie Chris? She was a gentle soul. She was very softly spoken and just kind. She was almost like ya Fairy Godmother, in a very traditional sense of very caring, very kind and warm person. She used to write letters all the time. She’d write, we used to. And that’s kind of how as an adult my relationship evolved with her, was through p. . . being pen friends almost, but not. But we’d s. . . she’d always have a little card, she’d always send you a, a little card and I used to write back to her. And that’s kind of what our relationship was as I became an adult, is that we’d, we’d write more than seeing each other, cos obviously I moved. Once I moved from Stoke, I moved back down here and so I didn’t see her very much. But we’d, we didn’t speak on the phone very much, but we’d always write each other these little cards. Even if it was just a few sentences in a little card, we’d, we’d write.
But erm, but I’d like to say goodbye cos I never got the chance to say goodbye. And that I’d keep up my relationship with Uncle Norman I guess. Because my relationship was primarily with her, not with him. Yeah I’d like to say goodbye but also that I’m gonna make sure that Uncle Norman’s in my life. And you know I invited him to my, well I invited them both actually to my Masters graduation, but she didn’t live long enough to go to that. She died in the December and my, I graduated from doing my Ma. . . I was doing my Masters for three years part time and they went to my undergraduate graduation. I just invi. . . I wanted them there at these special events. And yeah, so they came to my undergraduate graduation and I invited them both, when she was still alive, to come to my Masters graduation but she, she unfortunately passed away. Erm but Uncle Norman still came and erm, I knew that Christmas would be a difficult time, so Christmas just gone, Uncle Norman came down. My brother and his sons and my sister-in-law, we had a big family Christmas, which we never normally have. And yeah, he was part of that, which was really lovely. And yeah, I guess I’d like to reassure her that I would always stay in touch with him. That my, even though she was my primary, my relationship was primarily with her. And say goodbye and that I miss, I miss her even though we didn’t see each other all the time. Her presence in the world, I miss.
I like it because it’s very childish but in a grown up seat. It’s kind of quite bizarre, in the fact that it’s quite an old person’s seat with an adult’s chair, but with this very childish fabric. That’s what I like about it; it’s almost a bit weird in the fact that you wouldn’t normally see an old chair like that with such childish fabric. And I guess that’s probably why lots of people might not like it but that’s one of the things that I love about it. I guess I maybe dislike the fact that it’s so old fashioned shape, but yeah, that’s maybe the thing I dislike about it. And obviously doesn’t match any of my other kind of IKEA furniture! Erm yeah, that’s yeah maybe what I dislike about. But I just, yeah I really love it because it’s so almost, contrasting style and fabric is what I like about it.
The weird thing that I think of when I think of her is she was always into decorating her house for Christmas. She’d have a big tree and she’d have lots of decorations. And we never had decorations, we just had a tree. But she had this really strange erm ghost that she put up at Christmas. Not for Halloween but for Christmas. And it was about this big and it was made out (it was one of those one’s where you open it and it folded round and you clip it together), out of like crepe paper. And it had these big googly eyes and sort of floated around her, she had it in her lounge. And I think of that when I think of her.
In regard of faith, I’m not religious in any way. I was brought up as, in a religious family but erm, and I’m christened and confirmed but I am more, I would say I’m more of a spiritual person than I am a religious. And I guess grieving for her was quite difficult cos I wasn’t able to say goodbye in a traditional way of going to her funeral or erm . . . so I like to think, and what helps me, is thinking about that she is watching over me like, almost like a spirit guide or some sort of guardian. But she’s there. I don’t really, I don’t really know if that’s a faith perspective but it’s kind of a spiritual belief, that spirits guide us and that she is lookin’ out for me and that she knows what I’m doing. That she’s happy that I’ve got this chair and that she does remember the events of the chair. Cos she’s someone who was very sentimental and she, she probably, she probably had all the labels that came with the chair, the bag that came with the chair, the erm, the washing and the label instruction; she kept everything. Like paperwork, if they went somewhere on holiday, my Uncle Norman said he’s found files and files and files of like just leaflets that she would have picked up when there. So I think she would have remembered and that’s, I kind of like to think that she’s there thinking I’m actually pleased that you’ve got that chair, and that she would remember instantly that day.
Yeah I guess there are lots of things that maybe I think about my aunt, Auntie Chris, quite a bit. And there are lots of things that I’ve done since she died that I maybe wouldn’t have done, like having a MacMillan coffee morning and baking cakes in her memory. And just, yeah I’m, I’m glad that I have something that represents our relationship but also that I can keep and pass to other people. So that they know what a special person she was, even though she wasn’t, you know, she wasn’t a family member. She wasn’t, she wasn’t really my aunt, erm. To me she’s more . . . more precious than perhaps my real aunt. I don’t think there’s anything else that I could say about her cos I guess words can’t really convey my relationship with her. Erm, I’ve still got the last Christmas card she sent me, you know, that’s the kind of, I don’t keep Christmas cards, but the last one she ever sent me, I’ve kept. And yeah I wish I’d kept all the little letters she’d sent, but I didn’t. It’s in hindsight isn’t it? It’s a wonderful thing when someone’s gone, you look back in hindsight and think, ah I wish I’d kept this, I wish I’d kept that. But yeah.