“I remember an old woman with long white hair, in two plaits. She is sitting in a rocking chair, gently rocking back and forth as she watches the flames flicker in the fireplace. She has an old cream coloured, woolly shawl around her shoulders. Beneath that, a white blouse. She is wearing long, heavy, dark skirts with underskirts. She is dressed in immaculately clean, black lace-up boots but the heels and soles are worn.
Her face is beautiful but heavily lined; telling the story of the laughter and pain of her life. She is very old. She is smiling and humming a tune which is pretty but somehow sad. Her eyes have a youthful mischief about them, but they are as deep as the ocean. From the corner of her elegant, painted lips, hangs her stubby black pipe. She tightly holds the pipe to her mouth with her left hand and she breathes in deeply, as her eyes watch the fire. She seems mesmerised, as if she’s looking into the depths of the ocean.
She breathes out clouds of smoke but somehow the aroma of it is comforting. Blended with her perfume, which is sweet, it is a fragrance that is her. Only her. She is kind. She is playful. She loves her grandchildren. Being with her feels safe and it is always fun to be with her.”
This is my mother, Valerie, who recounted her memory, in the description above, of being with her Nanny ‘Snips, when my mum was a very young girl in the late 1940’s. It’s written in present tense, for that is how my mum described the scene, as if she was transported back in time to that former present moment:
Since I moved to the county of Suffolk in 2007, from London, I started tracing my family tree and unexpectedly discovered that Nanny ‘Snips was born in Suffolk and came from a very long line of Suffolk people. I love that I have found a family connection to this beautiful county, where I have made my home for more than a decade. My task now, is to find out more about my Great-Grandma and to try to learn more about this branch of my family. This will take me to two places initially, here in Suffolk. The villages of Debenham and Henley.
I will post further articles on this subject, as I uncover more detail. This purpose of this post is simply to reveal a glimpse of the woman that we thought was a Londoner but who, as it turns out, had a very different past. This is exciting and though I have found a long line of names through Ancestry.co.uk, I now want to build the story of the people and their lives.
There are so many fascinating family lines in my history that I wish to write about but I will start with this branch of the family, for something has brought me to live within the same area as my family’s much adored Nanny ‘Snips.
I want to walk in the villages of my family’s past and know that they stood there. I want to take in the sights of the landscape and know that they saw these sights with their eyes. I want to find where they were laid to rest and pay my respects. I want to know how they came to be where they were and who they were. I want to uncover the story behind this branch of my family tree.
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(C) Dean Parsons. 2018.