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Manny’s birthday book – April 29

April 29, 2011

Kate Greenaway's Birthday Book for ChildrenMy grandmother, who I called Manny, had a birthday book.  I’m posting the entries throughout the year, as they appear.

When one month changes to another, there is a colour-plate page inserted, with a whole page colour drawing by Kate Greenaway.  For these times, the name appears on one side of the plate, and then the plate and the dates appear in the next opening.

This is one such time:

From Manny’s Birthday Book:  April 29 – Mother

In her own handwriting, my great grandmother has written Mother 1886.  Below that one of my aunties has written died 1977 (Aunty).  Aunty was the name her grandchildren and great grandchildren called her.  I don’t know why.

Blowing airy bubbles light,

Watching changing colours bright;

Tommy, happy as a king,

Joyful at so small a thing.

When I was six or seven years old, daffodil yellow was my favourite colour.  My bedroom was painted that colour at my request, so everyone knew it was my favourite colour.  For my birthday that year, I got a parcel in the mail from Manny.  Inside was a beautiful jumper/sweater/jersey (hello English-speakers do we all speak the same language?).  It had been hand knitted.  Manny started it, but worried that she wasn’t going to get it done in time, so Aunty (my great grandmother) volunteered to help by knitting the sleeves.  It was one of the most treasured garment’s I’ve ever had.  The body fitted just like it should. Aunty’s knitting tension was considerably looser, so the sleeves were long and loose and floppy.  And I loved it.  It was soft and comfortable, and my grandmother and great grandmother had worked on it together, and it was clear, brilliant daffodil yellow.

The last gift I ever received from Manny, I received after she died.  She had bought it for my birthday, which is in August, and had put it away.  She died in April.  It was a yellow cotton top.  I like to think she chose it and bought it so far in advance, because it was yellow and she knew yellow was my favourite colour (when I was six).  She remembered things like that.

There is another jumper/sweater like the yellow one – I started knitting it when I was about 18.  I can’t remember if I got bored with it, I probably did, and I was staying with Manny at the time, or living nearby.  She finished it for me.  So some of it is in my 18 year old knitting tension and some of it is in Manny’s much older-lady’s knitting tension.  Just like the yellow one, it is all wrong – it was a loose fitting jumper anyway, but parts of it are ridiculous.  And I love it, and I still have it.  And on cold days, when I’m feeling particularly sad, or vulnerable, or just wanting some comfort, I bring it out and put it on.

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