Our next writing topic is ‘cardigan’… an item of clothing? Ceredigion in Wales? The Earls of Cardigan who date from 1593 and have nothing to do with the county having had their title bestowed after the Restoration? I’m nt sure, but here goes…
I put it in the charity shop bag and I took it out, I put it back and took it out again. Why hang on to it? My children wouldn’t want it, the poor faded thing, darned, but not by me. It was too small for me or my daughter, and I can’t imagine any girlfriend/partner/wife of my son would want it either. It was beige, and had been pretty with blue flowers knitted or somehow cleverly knotted into it, with little blobs of green leaves. This pattern went round the bottom of the old cardigan, was repeated on the bottom of the sleeves, the cuffs of which were ragged from wear or nibbled by moths, and round the collar – just as bands of colour not flowers. The buttons were those tiny funny-shaped pearl ones and they were all there – had mum replaced ones which had gone missing over the years, or were these the originals which Granny had bought and sewn on when she knitted the cardigan? Maybe Granny didn’t make it, maybe her mother did, or a friend or maybe she got it second-hand from someone – she wouldn’t have bought it.
I barely remember Granny but I have so many photos of her I feel as if I do. She was a tiny little lady, but I remember walking with her to feed the ducks, my sister in a pushchair at first, and then toddling along as well. I’m not sure where the duck pond was, I can imagine it so vividly; there was a white building on the left and then the road or path went down until it became muddy at the edge of the water. There were always ducks splashing about, but our favourite was the little white duck. I can imagine us as small children, trying to throw the dried crusts, but not being very good at it so sometimes they landed on the ground, or went over our shoulders or fell into the muddy, reedy patch.
I remember Granny at her home, wearing the cardi, a white blouse with a lacy collar – I think it’s called broderie anglaise, and a long dark skirt. I don’t mean it was long down to the ground, it was long because she was so small. She had a sweet, smiley face, and I never remember her being cross, but she was firm with us if we were being silly – not naughty, but silly… actually it was probably only me being silly, I don’t think my older cousin or younger sister would have been.
I remember sitting on her knee, my head against the cardi; was she telling me stories, singing nursery rhymes, comforting me because I’d fallen over and grazed my knee? Later, it must have been after she had died, for some reason we still had the cardi and I used to take it to bed – it wasn’t as a reminder of her, I don’t think, it was just something warm, and soft, and pretty, and I would finger the tiny child-sized buttons as I went to sleep. Maybe I did think of Granny, but only in the way that young children do when away from others they know – their thoughts are often so fleeting when they are secure and happy.
At some point the cardi was put away, maybe it had a brief sojourn in the dressing up box, and then when I was older I did think of Granny and associate it with her because I could barely remember her, to be honest. Somehow it became mine, just folded in a drawer of old things, and then when the children arrived it came out again – did I think they would like it as little ones like I had? I’m not sure what I thought now, they are both adults and completely independent. It went back into the old clothes places, drawers, shelves in the wardrobe, back of cupboards, storage bags under the bed along with the children’s infant clothes…
I sat on the bed and looked at it, the charity bag at my feet, then I folded it and put it back in my underwear drawer where I’d see it every day when I take out some undies.
I don’t actually have a cardigan like this, that part is made up, but everything else about Granny is true. My featured image shows her very smartly dressed – maybe for one of her children’s weddings? The lovely picture below is of her as a young woman with her dashing husband my Granddad Ruben, and their eldest son, my Uncle Sid.