Yesterday I received a letter from my cousin who lives in Switzerland. Last year I went on a rather odd holiday. I wanted to re-connect with my cousins. My mother died late in 2012 and finally the last of those in the family picture were gone. My mother was the youngest of 7 siblings. She was the “Benjamin” as the French Canadians would say – a child born 7 years after the family of three sons and three daughters was well established. I expect my grandmother felt a shock of horror and fatigue when it finally sunk in that yes, she really was going to have another baby. My mother’s position in the family meant that almost all of my cousins are quite a bit older than me. The picture reminded me of all these people and made me want to see my cousins again. One of those wanted to see most was Diana. She is about 8 years older than I am. Diana was one of the first of the cousins to go to university. She was never particularly beautiful but she has great intelligence and charm. She is very well read and one characteristic that draws me to her is her genuine amazement and wonder at the world around her. When I got off the train in Geneva I recognized her tall rather awkward figure at once as she came down the platform to meet me. Her very natural way of speaking made me feel that we had never been apart when in fact I hadn’t seen her for thirty years. Like her father, my handsome and lovable uncle Arthur, she has a strong family feeling. Her letter was full of references to her children and grandchildren and their partners. I must confess, I have a hard time remembering who is who. But her letter also talked about the plight of the Palestinians, the Ukrainian situation, a book about the Hapsburg Dynasty, and reference to an author she introduced me to last year, William Dalrymple. When you meet Diana you get the impression of a very simple soul who chats away with you in her thick Welsh accent. When you visit her small uncomplicated flat, however, the bookcases are groaning with books on many topics and it dawns on you that perhaps Diana is not such a simple soul after all. I like her and I like that somehow there is a tie that is different from that I share with the most beloved of friends. When I talk to her we talk about people who as the Welsh say “are belonging to us”. We find out things about the in-laws of our mutual aunts and uncles and I finally find out what happened to the secret cousin. Diana took me to France to a huge grower which specializes in irises and I bought a few rhizomes to plant in my garden (things are getting pretty crowded out there). You have to plant irises pretty close to the surface. I wonder if I will see those golden or deep purple blooms this year. It was a pretty brutal winter but I think I will. Today I will write back to Diana.
I hope you share this with Diana.
Wise Diana does not use email, Facebook,Twitter or any of these time wasters. She reads and looks at things..
Sent from my iPad
So your mama is far left, right? Oh how I love those family portraits! Like the cover of a book, the portrait is a mystery just waiting to be unravelled looking inside and reading it!
No, Mum is in the middle behind her own Mum — little girl with straight hair standing to the right (facing pic) of Diana’s dad, Arthur