Last update: 11-Dec-2013 3:23 pm
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Militant memory-keepers gone wild
Hoarders unite! After last week’s column on my 99-year-old grandmother and her inclination to protect and save everything, from balls of twine to ancient love letters to a battered pot with no handle, I was embraced by other grannies who wanted to play Poker of the Hearts.
That’s a game friends play when you share your troubles or triumphs. They see your pitfall or celebration and then they raise you theirs.
My granny is “sorf’’ compared to some of these militant memory-keepers.
Who could compete with Kathi Stollmeyer Wight, who used to keep framed on her kitchen counter a note she wrote to her housekeeper: “Gone to have a baby’’? The woman has all her children’s baby teeth, but she does not win the Hoarders’ Preakness because she is much too colourful, organised and stylish. True hoarders don’t have a place to stick a pin.
Then there is Tantie Toon Toon (look, I didn’t stand godmother for her and I do not know why she has that name!) who has her late husband’s spectacles, handcuffs (he was a policeman) and some shotgun pellets that were cut out of him by a semi-quack doctor when he had a hunting accident in Talparo.
Toon Toon has the dead husband’s false teeth too. In an old Pond’s cold cream jar.
She felt it necessary to show me a picture of this memento, with the fake gold splice and all, although my last electrocardiogram report indicates I could probably have lived a very long time without the need for such creepy information.
To get the level of this discussion back to civilised status, I give the floor to my longtime pal Valerie Laurent Thomas, a historian by nature, a dietician by profession, and a faithful and clever friend whose life intersects mine in some unexpected and spooky ways. But more on that another day.
Val keeps an 1800s copybook in which her grandfather listed “the years the children born and christen’’ which she calls her “passport’’ or evidence that she is a true “gens d’Arime.’’ She also has the menu from a dinner which her schoolteacher father Eugene Laurent attended. The menu bears the signatures of the father of the “Black Flash’’ MacDonald Bailey and the father of CLR James. The dinner was hosted by JO Cutteridge (the educator whom Sparrow poked fun at with “Dan is the man in the van’’).
But if I had to chose a gem from Val’s archives it would be the letter the students of Pamphylian High School at “Harris Square,’’ Port-of-Spain, wrote to her now late mother Andrea Marin when Ms Marin was leaving to get married.
The handwritten two-page letter contains the most elegant language, flowing like a gentle stream and bearing the sweetest sentiments. Aaah, does anyone take the time any more, to articulate so beautifully their thoughts and emotions?
“Dear Miss Marin,’’ the girls of Pamphylian began, “On your proposed departure from the School in which you have passed the last few years of your teaching career, the girls of all the Forms feel it is their bounden duty to express their sincere sorrow and regret.’’
My favourite sentence reads: “We understand that you leave us, to, as it were, start life ‘under your own vine and fig-tree’….’’
Take win, Val. This farewell from 1934 makes me want to ban texting, tweeting and twittering.
The letter was signed by Phyllis Cross, Grace Surat Ali, Barbara Corbie, Sybil Cox and Juliana Vincent. If you are out there, gentle folk, and you remember Ms Marin, write to [email protected] and tell me what little treasure you have archived from those sanguine days when punctuation and penmanship were virtues, and not means of torturing little children.
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