coming out of a bath of rose petals and Epsom salts I pull a petticoat out of the drawer and slip it on. it is about 69 years old. it is not tattered or torn ripped or perished , made of a fine cloth that I think my Mum would have called lawn. there are a few stains and a slight yellowing to the upper part of it. from the narrow shoulder straps it falls in an A- line to my ankles. way too big around my chest because it was made to contain my mother’s bosom which was substantial. there are two bands of a beautiful chain mesh lace sewn around the bottom. apart from that it is a perfect fit and I love wearing it particularly after a bath when I want to swan around in a’ retired I’m not doing anything grotty ‘ mood. it also doubles as my nightie if perchance I need one.
until I got my hands on it – the last time it was worn was probably 1945 when Mum married the father of my sisters. His name was Anthony Gould and we know very little about him. Kay and I went looking for him some years ago. what we know is that he was in the war came home suffering from shell shock and was given the thank you for serving your country soldier plot of land at Otorohanga. after the wedding Anthony and Ella settled there managing a dairy herd.
I have seen wedding photos of Ella in her white satin dress (the petticoat discretely and silently on underneath) with her all the way down to the ground veil and holding a large bouquet of flowers – rouge on her cheeks and tiny pearl earrings.
the odd thing is that I remember there was always one of these pictures on the wall in Mum and Dads bedroom. what did Dad think about that I wonder? Mum smiling on her wedding day to the previous bloke. maybe it was no biggie. there were other photos thruout the house and being the inquisitive child that I was asked why Dad wasn’t in any of them. The reply – because your father doesn’t take a ‘good’ photo which is something Dad believes to this day.
even when I was over there a few years ago packing up the house to move Mum and Dad closer to Kay and in the spirit of downsizing ( shudder) we came across a bag in the old divan. This divan was the type where the whole top of the divan lifts up to reveal a recess containing all manner of forgotten things. in the bag we pulled out the satin wedding dress and petticoat. Mum giggled a little while Kay and I oohed and aaahed . She told us she had made the petticoat to go with the dress and I like that it continues on. some time later it came into Jessica’s possession and it was then I claimed the petticoat. the dress has now gone to live with Leah. who knows if it will ever get worn again or used for any other purpose?
I reached in and pulled out a dressing table set. a mirror hair and clothes brush set , a beautiful sparkly blue background to a pair of lovebirds twined together on a branch.
hey mum isn’t this mine?
um ah um ah now where did that come from? she asked.
I remembered . I must have been about 12 or 13 and we were visiting Aunty Nola and Uncle Will in Te Awamutu. It was the 20th of May my birthday and Dads probably school holidays. Aunty Nola brought out the set and said I want you to have this Sandra . your Father gave it to his Mother my sister not long before she died and then he passed it on to me because we were very close. I have since found out that Nola was Dads favourite Aunty and he had spent a lot of his childhood living with them.
It is yours now and she handed it to me. Thank you I said.
I was thrilled although I thought it was a terribly old-fashioned sort of thing and then I never saw it again until we opened the divan some forty odd years later.
there had been times when I had asked Mum about it but she never quite knew where it was or …
another thing we know about Anthony Gould first husband of our Mother is that he had episodes and would disappear for days at a time leaving Mum alone on the farm. by the time Antoinette was born in 1948 and Kay was 17 months old the marriage was over and one of Mums brothers was sent to help her out on the farm. it seems that Mum was frightened of him and perhaps he had a psychotic episode and she bailed.
She moved into a state house in nearby Te Awamutu, a single woman on her own with two little children in the late 40’s .
apparently the old man as Mum called him turned up periodically and she would grab the girls ,hustle them inside hiding them under the bed and shushing them until he had gone. afterwards they would find lollies in the letterbox but not until years later did Kay realise that it was her dad.
Each week Ella went to the post office to withdraw money from her passbook and it was Murray my dad on the other side of the counter counting the money back into her hand.
by the time Kay was 10 and Antoinette was 8 Murray Taylor married Ella Gould nee Kay. They changed my sisters surnames from Gould to Taylor and I was born into the family.
I was 16 before I found out that my father was not the father of my sisters. it didn’t matter it wasn’t even important but it was a shocking revelation at the time although I had always known something was a little askew.
all the books in the house that had belonged to my sisters had evidence of something being rubbed out underneath the name Taylor.
we also discovered that Anthony Gould had been classified as having residual schizophrenia and had spent time in a psychiatric institution. He lived in a boarding house and died in Middlemore Hospital in Auckland of pneumonia around the time that Wade was born to Kay. on the death certificate where it says children it read female 2 whereabouts unknown.
He was gone and Kay and I were chasing a ghost. Mums lips were sealed . There is a sadness for Kay about this story – that a man that fathered her became lost – because he went to war because he did his duty and somewhere in all that things were never ever quite right for him ever again. and yet he will never be counted as a casualty of war even though he was. And so the suffering chases the generations down the line.
I don’t think Mum ever intended to become a liar – it was circumstances that led her down that path. A series of events led to choices led to a pattern led to the disembowelment of truth. it happens as easily as that . we all know about it, we have all been there. the sadness is , the reverberation of the secrets of the lies of the suffering wander down the family line plundering virtues from subsequent generations.
it is up to me and my petticoat to shake out the feathers open up the closet sweep away the dust and reset the future which will reset the past .
69 years is a long time in petticoat time but half a blink on an evolutionary scale. if we really are serious about tomorrow we need to divest ourselves of patterns that no longer serve us.
Monday chases yesterday as a birth follows a death.
I hear that my son is only a few hours away playing with my grandson.
I can see their auburn heads bent together over the toot toots and imagine the delight they are discovering in each other.
I give thanks to Mum for her journey of which I really have no idea but trust that it was all as it could be and that she has left us an undeniable legacy of love and joy.