Sandy is beginning to organise and put together her growing collection of autobiographical and biographical snippets. Most are of her own life and the lives of her family; some are of her husband’s ancestors. They are intended primarily for her two daughters but sometimes others read and enjoy them too. She is particularly interested in the women’s stories, harder to find and less often told than the men’s.
It isn’t hard to picture you filled with my mother Beti’s sherry trifle. You were lifted down from a high cupboard for many special events and filled with layers of sherry-drenched sponge, chopped almonds, fruit salad, custard, topped with whipped cream and decorated with whole blanched almonds. I watched and helped Mum make this dessert so I can easily remember the recipe. We would do it differently now, with fancier custard, fresh berries and perhaps an almond liqueur in place of the sherry. Just looking at you brings to mind the friends and family you served at many parties and Christmases. But you had a greater purpose too.
A mother in Prague carefully wrapped you and packed you in her eighteen-year-old Marki’s suitcase before farewelling her. It was 1968, and she was sending her daughter to Leicester as an au pair to a family she had never met, my family. Beti appreciated what a generous and precious gift you were, heavy cut crystal, curvy in shape, embodying a silent plea to nurture a girl who might never return home. I don’t know when you arrived, but perhaps it was the summer holidays and, I guess, before August when the tanks of the Soviet and Warsaw Pact armies rolled through the streets of Prague to supress the Prague Spring. Little did I know, aged seven, as you were unwrapped by my mother, the hopes and fears attached to you.
You travelled again in 2012, after Beti and Dexter were gone, much farther than your first trip. You flew this time with me to the other side of the world, to Auckland, for another life, with our family, carrying your history and your memories.
You, little mouse, were a Christmas gift from Mum that surprised and delighted me. Before the advent of online shopping, my family and I exchanged Christmas parcels between England and New Zealand. So unsuited to parcel post were you; a handle is always at risk, but all of you, and especially your ears, could have been damaged in transit or since. Mum and I both loved the Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson cheeseboard that great Uncle Lester bought in Yorkshire. She must have thought of me and of him when she picked you out as a gift not too heavy to post.
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