Weddings were just as important in the forties and fifties as they are now but maybe not as extravagant. Long engagements weren't common among Pearlie's circle. Husbands were often chosen from the local neighbourhood. They didn't travel far in search of a spouse. I suppose too, better the devil you know....
Wedding presents consisted of pillowcases, bedspreads, blankets and cheval sets. Canteens of cutlery and china were popular gifts. One new bride boasted delightedly of receiving 'a fireside chair'.
They weren't just about weddings. There were letters from far-flung relations in Scotland, Canada and Australia. Some hinted, only hinted, at family scandal. I suppose 'reading between the lines' was a skill better understood in those days of paper and ink.
There was one far-flung cousin whose missives were a litany of woe from start to finish.
Recognising her scratchy hand-writing I said to Bert,
Here's another catalogue of misery from your one that's always sick, or her man's sick or the weans aren't well.I started to read. The letter started as usual with complaints about the weather, the strikes (it was the Winter of Discontent) and the dreary Christmas they'd had. Then she started to write about her husband's old aunt. This aunt was in hospital but not doing well. It appeared the old soul had dementia although the word wasn't mentioned. The letter writer and her husband had been having a dreadful time with her. She was waking all night, going out in her nightdress and threatening her neighbours with a potato masher. To make matters worse this old doll was a keen letter writer herself and she was sending missives around all the friends and relatives claiming that the ones closest to her were neglecting her, never coming near her and worse again, hitting her. It seemed that 'cheeky' letters were being written back to to the old aunt's carers accusing them of mistreating the old girl. Little wonder the letter continued '...and I am not a well woman myself. There are days I can hardly get out of my bed.' No doubt she was deeply depressed but depression, like dementia, would hardly have been acknowledged in those days.
Aye. And if they do happen to be enjoying a brief spell of good health then the weather's shite and he's out of work again.
I finished the letter feeling a great deal more sympathy for that long dead and put-upon woman.
Our troubles all come to an end eventually.
Pearlie spends a great deal of her time in one room. Her interests have narrowed. Her conversation is dreary and uninteresting. She spends her time doing simple puzzles or reading the bible. She eats hardly anything and is obsessed with her bowels. She is negative about everything. She cares very little for her appearance. She has no interest in the past or the future. Her youngest sister died just over a week ago and it hardly affected her.
Matty is different. She's still full of beans and I pray she will always be like that. She is interested in people and interested in the world. She cares what she looks like. Maybe she's a bit too fixated on her health problems but she tries hard to stay positive.
I wonder what kind of old, old lady I'll be. If it's the Pearlie kind I don't want to get there. If it's the Matty kind it might be alright. No matter what sort I become I hope there will be no-one peeking round my door in the morning watching my shallow, sleeping breaths and thinking to herself, 'Not dead yet.'