Wednesday, January 22, 2020

My godmother, Genevieve

My godmother, a woman I didn't meet (except as an infant at the Christening service) until I was twelve, was always an enigma. Never having her own family, the gifts she sent me for Christmas and birthdays were things she herself probably enjoyed. But a child doesn't necessarily appreciate sachets or small jars of jams and jellies. In fifth grade she sent me earrings, a gift that shocked my mother! No 'nice girl' in the 1950s wore earrings! I still have the sterling silver earrings and wore them a lot in my twenties and thirties, until I finally had my ears pierced.

Sadly, throughout my grade school and junior high years, Genevieve was just a woman to whom I had to write thank you notes twice yearly. When I was in junior high, she lived less than seventy miles away, and my mother periodically arranged for luncheons for the three of us at a restaurant in her city, so Genevieve and I could become better acquainted. But by then, even my mother had little in common with Genevieve, so as I recollect, the lunches were formal, restrained, and awkward. What they were not was fun.

To make matters worse, from first-grade until I was in college (!), I could never remember how to spell Genevieve when it came time to writing a thank you note for a gift I couldn't yet appreciate. Even now, when I just typed her name, I could still hear my mother loudly calling out the spelling rhythmically in reply to my question as I sat at the desk in my room: "G E N . . . E V . . . I E . . . VE." In fact, even now, that rhythmic breakout is the way I remember the spelling.

But in 1971, two years after my mother died, and long after Genevieve had reduced her remembrances of Christmas and birthdays to small, densely handwritten notes with well wishes and weather news, she sent me an amazing gift. It's a treasure that I recently came across wrapped in acid-free tissue in a draw in my dining room chest-of-drawers. I have transcribed the accompanying note (at least, the part describing the gift). I was absolutely thrilled to be the recipient of such an amazing treasure, and wrote her a note oozing with genuine appreciation.

February 23, 1971
Dear Sallie: Under separate cover I am forwarding to you an antique linen buffet scarf woven in 1850. One of my father's aunts held the royal patent to furnish all the linen for Buckingham Palace. The mill was located at ______ [ed. note: I cannot make out the name--it looks like Lapham, but there is no such place. Is it Harpham?], England. I have in my possession several pieces and would like you to have one. I don't know whether you have your mother's love of antiques, as I know so little of your interests, hobbies, etc.; since it takes 12 days for a package to reach Seattle, I am mailing early with the hope that it reaches you around March 8.

Needless to say, it did reach me and I love that it was entrusted to me by Genevieve Bale, my godmother.

No comments: