Sunday, July 17, 2011

Family Heirlooms

One of my most treasured possessions is a scruffy little book of poetry that once sat on my Poppa's bookshelf. The story goes that he used to read the poems aloud to my dad and uncles when they were boys and while he read, he would doodle in the margins.  Whenever I look through that book I remember everything I truly loved about my dear old Poppa. The way he used to whistle. Poppa sitting on his chair at six in the morning in his robe and slippers listening to crackly weather reports on the radio.  The way he used to call me 'Becca'.  That little green book has followed me throughout my many moves, from Wellington to Auckland and back, and now over the sea to Australia.  It means everything to me because it encapsulates all of the wonderful things I remember about him. His intellect and sharp wit, his lyrical voice and gift for storytelling, and his sense of mischievousness and fun.

Recently when I was back in New Zealand, my sister, mum, and I went to visit my Nana for a morning of chatter, looking through old photographs, and Nana's date loaf.  What a gift that Nana has kept all of her photographs from the time she was a girl until now. We oohed and aahed over Nana in her twenties, splendid in a smart 1940s suit and hat as she walked arm in arm with a group of girlfriends, a wide smile on her lips.  Poppa on his honeymoon looking young and handsome as he sat on a rocky shore proudly displaying a neat row of fish that he'd caught. Nana on the beach in the 1950s in a polka dot swimming costume, hair blowing wild, three small boys playing in the sand nearby.

While we were sipping tea my sister reminded Nana of a comment she had made about her wedding dress a while ago. Apparently she mentioned that she might throw it away, because she hadn't looked at it since her wedding day and it was taking up room. Those present at the time (God bless you!) shrieked in horror and told her to keep it for me, because if anyone would love and treasure it, I would.

As we opened the tissue that was so carefully wrapped over 60 years ago, my Nana told us the story of her engagement and wedding day.  She said that she had to save to buy the lace for the dress and used rations, because you couldn't just go and buy that amount of lace in those days. She made it herself on her future mother in law's hand powered sewing machine. And it's beautiful.

This blog is all about remaking and upcycling. Making old things into new. This dress however, will be one of the things that I will leave well alone. It will be given to my daughter one day. And when I give it to her I'll tell her about a dental nurse who met a dentist one day in the late 1940s. And how they got married, and made a wonderful life together.


  1. look how tiny the waist is! don't you love how old wedding dresses have so much meaning in them? i remember my grandmas mum made her dress (i think - she was a dressmaker) and then they both made my mum and aunt's dresses when they got married. even though at the time it was because they were too poor to get someone else to do it - i also think it gives the dresses heaps more 'meaning' - much better than going to the shop these days and spending hundreds of dollars on something that was probably made in china.

  2. That's a lovely story .. I'm glad you have it and are keeping it. I was surprised at the tiny waist as well .. it certainly is a treasure.

  3. I've been researching how to clean it because it has several brown stains on it from the tissue it was kept in. It looks as though sunlight is the safest option so if it's fine tomorrow I'll lay it out on a sheet for a bit and see what happens. Once it's clean I want to store it properly so that it lasts. For it's age it's surprisingly strong, probably because Nana last got it out on her wedding day!


Thanks for your comments, I love to hear from you!


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