Sunday Scribblings – Photo

I found this meme on Danielle’s blog and thought it would appeal to me also. Sunday Scribblings, this week the writing prompt is Photo

This is the only pictureMumandme I have of my Mother, Noel, and myself. She was called Noel because she was born on Christmas day 1919. This photo was taken in September 1952 when she was 33 years old and I was five. I was wearing my new school uniform as I was just about to start school and I remember that the dress my mother was wearing was blue.

In November my Father left for Iraq to work on the oil pipelines, I remember my Mother and I looking out of the window watching my Father walk away. He did not look back, he hated goodbyes. My Father had taken the position in Iraq on the advice of my Mother’s doctor as she suffered very badly from asthma and he was told the dry desert air would help her. If the job worked out we presumably would follow him to live in Kirkuk where the Iraq Petroleum Company was based.

There had been extreme weather that Fall and by Christmas the smog that Londoner’s called ‘pea-soupers’ had fallen like a blanket over the city. My Grandmother lived just around the corner from us and Mum and I went over there with the plan to stay over Christmas Eve and spend Christmas day together. My Mother and I slept on the chesterfield in the living room but half way through the night my Grandmother came to get me because my Mother was coughing so badly that she thought it would help if I wasn’t disturbing her as I was known to be quite restless in my sleep. My Mother’s coughing quietened and we fell asleep.

On Christmas morning my Uncle Glyn, who lived with my Grandmother, knocked on her bedroom door.

“Mam,” he said “Something is not right with Noel”.

He had gone to take my Mother a cup of tea, but found her dead on the chesterfield having suffocated from an asthma attack. This was before the days of medications like Ventolin, which did not become available until 1969 in Britain.

I remember being told to stay in bed, and then a lot of flurry and people coming and going. My Auntie Verona, a widow, who I did not know very well, was coming over for the day and when she arrived I heard her talking with my Grandmother and then she whisked me off to her home which was on the other side of London. No one explained to me that Mum had died, but I figured it out for myself pretty soon. My Father arrived a couple of days later from the Middle East and the men of the family buried her, as it was not customary in my family for women and children to attend funerals, I believe this is or was a Welsh custom. So she was born and died on Christmas Day and I still don’t like Christmas that much.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

11 Responses

  1. I am glad that you participated in this meme. I knew that you did not like Christmas but I didn’t know the reason why. How understandable. I can remember as a child being put in ‘oxygen tents’ and made to stand in steaming showers, and breathing with a stack of books on my chest (to increase my lung power) all because asthma was little understood in this time period. I’m sorry.

  2. How difficult this must have been for a child! I understand that the frequency of asthma is increasing, especially among children. It is a problem we all should address, not just with medications but also with reducing the amount of pollution in the air.

    That Christmas must have been difficult for your father, too. He had been trying to find a better environment for your mother.

  3. Oh, what a sad story, and you were so young to lose your mother Vic. I’ve read before about how those London “pea soupers” often took the lives of people with respiratory illnesses. We came very close to losing one of our children during a severe asthma episode, when he wasn’t quite two years old. It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced.

  4. How sad for you Vic Grace, to lose your mother like that. I can see why you don’t like Christmas much. So sad for you father too.

  5. What a horrible thing for you to go through as a child. I am very sorry.

  6. So sad about your Mom! So sad for you and your Dad. Totally changed the course of your life didn’t it.

  7. Oh, Vic, how brave of you to write about your terrible loss.

    God bless you.

  8. I can understand why you don’t like Christmas very much. Your story was heartbreaking, you were so young.

    On a totally unrelated note, I love that you use the word chesterfield. My paternal grandparents always called it that and I very often slip and do the same. People always look at me as though they have absolutely no clue what I am saying.

  9. Vic,

    (Found you from our friend David!)

    Isn’t it strange that the things in life that cause so much pain and anguish can be the very tools that cause us to help one another?? I appreciated your story and the picture that you put with it. I’ve lived in England too. Went to secondary school there as a girl and been to Wales a few times too =) Thanks for sharing.

  10. You were so young. My heart goes out to the little girl you were.

  11. It’s completely understandable why you don’t like Christmas much. What an awful thing to have to go through as a child. I’m so sorry. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. The photograph is beautiful.

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