A few months ago, as I was looking through an old biscuit tin of photos, I found a tiny yellowed photograph of my mother taken in about 1921. I’d never seen it before. My mother looks to be about one year old and is sitting on her Great Grandmother, Granny Wolfe’s knee. There are four people in this photo. Nana Westrupp, my mother’s grandmother is beside Great Granny Wolfe. My mother’s Mum, Nana Reed is sitting in front.
I know all this because it is written on the back in my mother’s distinctive, rounded handwriting. I haven’t seen my mother’s handwriting in a long time as she died in 1983. It hits me now with a jolt, the sense of loss. Up until now I have looked longingly at other people’s four generation photos thinking I couldn’t produce a photo like that because Mum died when I was thirty three. I don’t even have a photo of her and me with my daughters, Jenni and Ngaire. Perhaps I could photoshop one. Not quite the same though.
This discovery is a revelation. I knew my Nana but not the older women. Together they represent the four generations of women, who have gone before. They stare out at me, slightly askew, sitting on the verandah of their house in Nelson. A formal pose. Who was the photographer? It must have been cold as Granny Wolfe, in a close cloche style hat, is wearing a thick winter coat held at the neck with two large buttons, one on either side of the collar. She looks formidable. How did she feel posing with her great granddaughter?
I’m used to seeing photos of my children and grandchildren as babies but here is my mother as a baby wearing a knitted dress with a fair isle pattern. I’ve never thought of her as a baby. Nana, as a young woman, fascinates me. The only memory I have is of an old lady with soft wrinkly skin — she died in her sixties — not much older than I am now. Her mother, Nana Westrupp looks to be in her early sixties, perhaps. Her grey hair is swept back slightly to one side. A bun at the back? Possibly. I keep looking at them. This is where I came from.
Recently I had the photo digitised, a few spots removed, enlarged slightly, copies made and framed with delicate pewter frames. They will be my birthday gift to each of my daughters this year.