Saturday, 18 July 2015
IT'S MARRIAGE - BUT IS IT ROMANCE? By Linda Mitchelmore
Today would have been my parents' 70th Wedding Anniversary, had they lived. They married in 1945 and I remember, as a thirteen-year-old (or thereabouts) asking my mother why she had married my father. I had never seen them kiss, or hold hands. Out walking, my mother (like the Queen) was always a few steps ahead of my father. My mother could be very snippy - sharp even. She rarely smiled and there was always a sadness around her somehow. My father, on the other hand, was gentle and laid-back - almost comatose at times - and full of jokes and funny phrases; one of of his favourites, when I got back home from wherever I'd been, was 'Hello, love. How's your bum for spots?'. If my mother was giving him grief about something he would listen for a while then put up a hand and say, with a beaming smile,'Shut up, love, and give us a kiss.' My mother would say, 'Oh, you!' and whatever it was she'd been on about was forgotten. It was hard for me - deep into my Georgette Heyer reading period - to see how there could ever have been romance, of the fast-beating hearts and flowers variety, between them. So, what answer did I get to my question? 'We'd been through a war and there weren't many men around. And your dad was handsome. And besides, he bought the material for my wedding dress in Italy in the middle of a war before he'd even asked me to marry him, so what else could I have done when he turned up on the doorstep with it?' I like to think that was a tongue-in-cheek answer but I can't quite believe it was. I don't remember them ever buying one another a birthday card or a present. For Christmas every year my mother knitted my father a pair of socks in 3ply wool on four needles. My father forked out for a bottle of Chianti in a raffia holder because it reminded him of his time in Italy and that Chianti was the only alcohol that entered the house all year. I've read recently of someone who has found lots of love letters her parents sent to one another, full of longing and love, and romantic writing - all I found was household bills (paid, of course). And yet ... they were a team. My father's last words to me as I left his hospital bedside (not expecting him to die that night) were 'Look after your mum, love.' I did. My mother's last words to me were, 'I'd love to see your dad, just one more time.' And then she, too, was gone. I don't think I've consciously used my parents' lives in any of my novels and yet ... that wedding dress story has had an airing, the funny phrases have seen the light of day again, poignant last words have been written. Thanks for listening. And here they are on their wedding day.