Thursday, November 24, 2011

Norma and Bill

As I was driving over to the Wairarapa on Saturday morning I was a little bit excited about the afternoon ahead, for a really dorky reason: I was going to interview my Nana (Norma, my Mum's Mum) about her life.

I decided this needed to happen the other month as I was writing the end of my grandfather's eulogy for my Dad (just to clarify, the grandfather that died was a Jacobson, his wife is still going strong but she is not the Nana I'm talking about here). I was sitting at Nana's kitchen table with the laptop and referring to a spiral bound Jacobson family history book written by my grandfather's two sisters and other members of their extended family. Nana saw me looking at it and said, 'Oh yes I read that when Megan brought it home, it's very well done, but I won't be writing anything like that about my family so you'll have to make it up when it comes to me.'

I wasn't having that. I declared I would write something on her behalf and she didn't seem too averse to it. That was how I came to be sitting on the couch with my Nana on Saturday afternoon, with the laptop on a small coffee table in front of us, recording her telling me all about her parents, her childhood, my grandfather I never met, and my Mum and aunty and uncle when they were younger. We sat there for three hours (luckily I had bought her lunch on my way to her house and made her a cup of tea before we started) and I am so pleased I did it. She was really amazing about it as well, I thought she might be a bit awkward or find it a bit strange but, just like the time I asked her to pose for some photos for a Gender and Women's Studies project I was doing about images of older women, she had a sense of humour about it and in her own unassuming way she just got on with it.

(This is a photo of a photo of Norma and Bill, I'll have to ask her where they were off to - probably the Carterton A&P Show for which she said she made a new dress every year)

One of the best parts about the interview was learning a bit about my grandfather, (William) Bill Hartley Mouldey. He died when my Mum was 14 and no one ever really talks about him. Because of this, for some reason, I had always imagined he was grumpy and mean. But I think it's just because it was a long time ago and one of those hard, sad things some people find it easier not to talk about. I knew he had worked as an engineer at the freezing works, but on Saturday I learned he was a very involved unionist during those years which made me really respect him (probably because I'm reading the autobiography of Sonja Davies and there's a lot about unions in it and how hard people leading and organising them worked). He was five years younger than my Nana, they met when he was 17 and she was 22, and they waited until he was 21 before they got married. His father was killed only a few weeks after he and Nana first danced together, but she didn't know his surname so when it came across the radio that a man had been killed crossing the road coming home from the pub, it was Nana's older brother who told her that that man was the father of the boy she'd been dancing with the other weekend.

He made these gates for the house he and my Nana built (which she still lives in) and when my sister and I were little, they were shifted to our house in Martinborough where they have stayed. So when Megan and I were in Martinborough on Sunday for Toast, I made her walk past our old house with me, to see the gates again and take a photo.

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