Friday, February 29, 2008

Auntie Queen


Today is my Auntie Queen's birthday.

She's the only person I've known with a leap year birthday.


I'm not sure how old she would have been this year - she was actually a great-Aunt and I suppose would have been well over a hundred (or i guess in her early 30's in leap years).



Her "real" name was Ivy, but only Uncle Stan ever called her that.



This is her wedding photo.


She was my (paternal) grandfather's sister and always seemed great fun - as was Stan, who was nearly as wide as he was tall (by the time I knew him) and who was very like Johnny Morris, who used to talk with the animals on childrens' TV.

When I was growing up they seemed fairly like other "old" people in some ways, but also somehow more fun and even a little racey. Queen was a wonderful dressmaker and always very stylish.

They had an almost nude art deco lady holding a globe lamp which I was slightly in awe of (which was stolen from my parents' house some time ago).

I remember my mother commenting on how rather shocking this lamp was. Neither side of the family was particularly bohemian or daring.

They played table tennis competitively, and cards, and laughed a lot. They were party people.

My parents had always got on well with them, they had a very good friendship and used to spend holidays together.

Just once my auntie showed me a little of the sadness she'd also had.

They had had a baby boy who died fairly young - at round about 18 months, I think. Mum said that Uncle Stan had then decided they shouldn't have any more children as he didn't want any risk of such suffering for her in the future. Queen had a difficult relationship with my Gran - her sister-in-law - who was not an "easy" person and who could be nasty and manipulative. On one family occasion we found ourselves sitting in my sister's bedroom - I have no recollection of how we came to be there, or what had led up to it - but she was in tears, and told me how my Gran would cross the street to avoid her when they were young, and how she would make comments to the effect that "people with no children of their own shouldn't try and steal other peoples' children."

I was young at the time - early teens perhaps - and can't remember what I said or did, but I wish I'd had the maturity and confidence to talk and listen more, to be a comfort and get to know her better. She never mentioned or alluded to any of this, ever again.

She was of a generation where such things weren't talked about.

I have a small blue beautifully knitted jacket and a rattle which Auntie Queen made for her son which was about all, I think, that she kept of him.

I've not thought of her for some time, but I'm in tears writing this - and there is more. I learned from my mum - after Auntie Queen had died (which was about 13 years ago) - that although she loved and was happy with Uncle Stan, he was not her first love. She'd fallen deeply in love with someone else, but he was considered unsuitable by her family.




This photo of her young man is, touchingly, far more faded than the matching photo of her - i've already considerably darkened it.

So, that relationship was forbidden and/or ended, and she met and married Stan. I wonder if he knew? I wonder what became of that first young suitor.

What heartache and regret she'd known.

I think Auntie Queen always had a soft spot for me: mainly because I've always been very like my mother who she loved so much; also because I was married for over 10 years before we had a child, and I then had 2 miscarriages before LG was born. I always thought that she must have wondered why we waited so long, though she would never have asked, and would have felt some affinity for me in my childlessness, while my brother and sister were producing beautiful bouncing babies.

Auntie Queen and Uncle Stan moved frequently and were ruthless about turning out things they didn't want or need any more. She sold most of her jewellery and mum persuaded her not to sell her exquisitely embroidered and lace-edged tablecloths only by saying, very directly, that she would love to have them and would be more than happy to pay her for them. Needless to say, Quntie Queen gave them to mum and I now have and treasure one of them.

But she kept the little jacket and rattle, and she gave me a couple of pieces of jewellery - a cross and chain which her father gave her for her 21st birthday, and an exquisitely delicate little pendant with seed pearls and tiny sapphires which she said was given to her by a "special friend".


they are all treasures.
Happy birthday Auntie Queen.

23 comments:

Sivle said...

Awwww - that was lovely.
Happy Birthday Auntie Queen!
Beautiful photos...
x

tut-tut said...

What a wonderful tribute; I bet Aunt Queen would be in tears herself, reading it. We tend to to allow others, especially relatives, to claim rich inner lives, but you've certainly given voice to your aunt's. A leap indeed . . .

tut-tut said...

I meant to say "NOT to allow others"; sorry.

Lynne said...

What a wonderful ( yet a bit sad) story. I loved the old photographs. Don't you just wish you could sit down with her today and have a conversation?

Like with my Mom's death. There are so many questions I should have asked; so many things she had to tell and share with me about family members, yet they remain lost forever now. Why do all these questions crowd my brain now? Why didn't I think to ask before??

Sorry to go on, but your story touched me, Letty. I loved it.

Lee's River/Zlatovyek said...

A lovely tribute, Lettuce. I'm sure you were as special to her as she is to you. Here's to favorite aunts and their treasured heirlooms.

Akelamalu said...

What a touching story you tell of your Aunt Queen. Your treasures and memories are very special. x

d. chedwick bryant said...

this post very nearly had me in tears. i love this post.

d. chedwick bryant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kate said...

What a special relationship you had with your aunt - she didn't have an easy life, but she doesn't seem to have ever lost her joy in living.

Your post was beautiful...

kimy said...

I'd have liked to have known auntie queen. must say I did get a bit teary. happy birthday auntie, I know you are smiling down at lettuce's lovely tribute. fantastic pictures!

Pod said...

do we ever stop loving our first love? i haven't.
poor old queenie
i really wish i had the maturity to talk more adultly (?) with my nan too
queenie looks a bit like pj harvey
ah for the old days
where has stlye gone?

lusks said...

What a wonderful story, thanks for sharing.

Absolute Vanilla (& Atyllah) said...

What a beautiful and heartwarming tribute to Auntie Queen, Lettuce - and I loved those old photos - the evoke such nostalgia for times past.

Shelly Lowenkopf said...

How good it is to get to meet your family and hear their history. I agree with the pod about first love and felt a pang for Aunt Queen.

dennis said...

Dennis is impressed by the size of her wedding bouquet, and the entire post. Dennis agrees with Pod and Shelly.

Reya Mellicker said...

What a beautiful post, Lettuce. Aunt Queen sounds wonderful. And she was so beautiful, too. I love the way the ancestors slip in to this time and place, make us sit down, pull out the old photos and remember them.

I feel like I know a lot about Aunt Queen. Thank you so much for this!

Gledwood said...


your Queenie Auntie seems one hell of a character...
... as for bastard burglars let me tell you truthfully one thing:

as you know I am habituated to certain things and obviously know certain people who would probably make the ordinary person's skin crawl...

but let me tell you this: the domestic burglar is sneered, revulsed and looked down upon so bad that anyone who DOES do these things never feels fit to boast about it... after all they are robbing our mothers, neighbours, aunts etc and although we are addicts we still see this

I just wanted to tell you this. that even amonst theives home-wreckers are rightly considered scum of the earth

Gledwood said...


ps i've never been a tea-leaf ~~ apart from an abortive career in shoplifting... no! I used to beg my money on the street... through wind rain and shine...

phd girl said...

beautifully written tribute--more than a tribute.

side note:
My cousin married a lovely Leap year girl named Nora--and she was just furious that he told her birthday at our first meeting. (She had been teased by her ultra religious parents --Jesus did not wish her to have a gift and cake each year!!) --and they only celebrated her day on Leap years--which upset her permanently. (I know I would have been ticked off!)

It would have been nicer had the celebrated her birthday on both the 28 & 1st instead of pulling that BS on her.

April Fool's day is another fun birthday I suppose.

Vintage to Victorian said...

What an honour it must have been to have known such a lovely lady. We tend to hear such sad tales today, don't we, of lost loves and unsuitable liaisons. What a contrast to today's 'careless' attitude to relationships.

lettuce said...

ta trac, and tut-tut.

lynne you can go on here any time. Yes, I feel exactly the same - re. Auntie Queen and my mum. Why didn't I talk to them more?

Indeed, Lee, and Lamalu.
Ched, I'm glad (that you liked it, not about the tears) It was special writing it, actually.

she was fab, Kate and Kimy.

she does pod! & i think theres plenty of style around still....
quite a lot of it in this comments box. :o)

thanks lusks. And Vanilla - there is something about old photos, isn't there?

it is heartbreaking shelly.

dennis, i'd never especially noticed the size of that bouquet before.

reya, I love your thought of our ancestors visiting and sitting with us. thankyou.

gled - i hate to think of your soft fur getting wet on the streets.

phd girl. I am shocked. bastard burglars maybe - but, bastard parents??!!!

I don't know V2V, I think it still happens today too.

zquilts said...

"I found your blog through "The Mouse". This is a very wonderful post - and I get teary when I write about my family too! I love the photos - you can get the darkened photo of the mystery suitor restored. What fabulous family history!

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