A few weeks ago I went with my Mum and Dad to scatter my Nan’s ashes. It was a beautiful sunny day and although obviously very emotional for Mum, the short ceremony was very peaceful and serene. It wasn’t without comedy. Traffic in Boston is a nightmare and on this particular day it was even worse than usual. The funeral director, who was stuck in the traffic, called to apologise for being late and to ask how he’d recognise us. Dad replied ‘I’ll be the one wearing a white shirt and black tie’. I wasn’t sure how helpful that was going to be at a crematorium.
Once the FD had screamed to a halt in his Micra, apologised and explained that they’d had a nightmare of a day. I wondered what that meant in the parameters of the funeral business. As a rule, I usually measure my good/bad days based on a barometer of ‘did anyone die’. I couldn’t work out what theirs would be. After the short service in the sunshine, and a few quiet tears from Mum, we did the obvious thing – back home for a cup of tea.
Tea is a big thing in our family. It’s a ritual to mark any and every occasion. We never risk less than 10 bags left in the tea caddy. Ever! You never know when you’ll need to put the kettle on.
As Mum was defrosting 20 scones and buttering enough bread to make sandwiches for a visiting rugby team, I sat down and probably for the first time in a few years took stock of Nan’s living room. She was always extremely house proud so there was never anything out of place. I remember when I was little and they took delivery of display cabinet. With glass doors and shelves to show off the various bits of objet. This included some ‘posh’ cut crystal glasses, a variety of bone china cups and saucers and a few of those flamenco dolls she picked up from Spain decades ago (aka when I was a child).
There’s a trend now to tell people not to wait – to go for it, to eat the cake, to drink the wine, to wear the special dress, to live for the moment. I get it. But for Nan and her generation, I think it was really important to be able to have something which represented and focused on the ‘special’. Nan lived through WW2, rationing, going without, the black market, making ends meet. Her wedding dress was made of parachute material (not khaki green, thank god) and the food for the wedding reception was made up from everyone’s contributions from the ration books. She lived through this time, thrived and never really understood why, when people are now dying from having too much, she was able to make vol-au-vents for 80 guests with change left over from a fiver.
What she had in that display cabinet represented hard work, saving, having occasions to roll out the best china and glassware for. Saving the Esso vouchers for a set of 4 glass whiskey tumblers was a thing.
So, while I absolutely embrace the idea of not saving things ‘for best’, because you never know when your numbers up, I do understand that having something (or someone) to look forward to, having that reverence, has its place too.