Monday, March 19, 2007

Granny's Cottage

Lovely comments on my Paddy's Day post---thank you all for dropping by. If you make the soda bread, soak a cup of raisins for thirty minutes in half a cup of whiskey [or boring hot water!] and add with the flour. Don't throw that whiskey down the sink! Save it and toss it into your next cup of tea. Bake the bread five or ten minutes longer than instructions say. You guessed it--the overbaked loaf tasted better than the first one. Great for breakfast any day of the year....

Even though I can remember my Granny's house before they got electricity out the country, I'm really not so ancient. In fact, having just read somewhere that sixty is the new "middle age", I realise I'm just a young whippersnapper, having a couple of years still to go!

The old house was the farmhouse where my mother grew up. It burned down sometime in the mid fifties, and was replaced with a modern monstrosity. I always loved the old house better---thick whitewashed walls; thatched roof; tall, white haired grandfather still alive; oil lamps lit in the evenings; down on your knees, if you stayed late, to recite the rosary with Granny, auntie and the uncles, and no complaining that the stone floor hurt your knees; window seats, a half door that let the sunshine in but kept the chickens out, a cobblestone yard in front, a tangle of wild roses and gooseberry bushes out back-----and a sweeping view of the entire county ---- could heaven be any better?

When the new house was finished, and Granny installed in its modern comforts, she and my aunt and my mum would sit there chatting and drinking tea, when we'd drive out for a Sunday afternoon visit. As soon as I could, I'd escape, and go off up the passage to the shell of the old house, and spend blissful hours rummaging around there. There were old books and periodicals, sheet music and photographs, cold cream jars and knick knacks ........ I remember finding a little mug, very dainty, with flowers painted on it. I brought it back down to the new house and showed my treasure to the grownups, and asked if I could keep it. My own mother pounced on it and appropriated it, claiming it had belonged to her as a girl. There was no arguing. It was hers. I guess she didn't realise how completely enchanted with it I was. Or care. It was carried back to Limerick with us and set on the sitting room mantlepiece, where I could look at it but not touch, even though I always felt it rightly belonged to me!

In the fullness of time the old cottage was torn down, and modern milking parlors built in it's place. Whatever artifacts were saved were then stored in the loft above the old milking barn, so while the womenfolk chattered, I' d go and climb up to the loft, and spend hours mooning over old photographs, and wondering who they all were, and if I dared ask to be allowed to take some of them home......

The new house, even though it lacked the charm and personality of the old one, and had a modern Aga cooker instead of the open hearth, could still be relied on to have the smell of freshly baked soda bread lingering in the corners every time we went to visit.

10 comments:

meggie said...

Your family memories sound familiar, though different to mine. It was the 'ruin' that was brushed aside, & the 'reality' that counted. How could i love the little egg cup that was my mother's. I love it still, this day, though I am sure it is worthless on the monetary stage. But she loved it, & so do I. I would never part with it!

Suse said...

What a gorgeous post. I could practically see and smell that cottage.

jkhenson said...

What a great description! I loved the idea of rummaging through old things at Grandma's. I can remember doing it myself in their little house, much like a cottage. Thanks for the memories. Even the smells came back to me. :)

Isabelle said...

Lovely evocative post. However, I still think you must be 95 and just not admitting to it!

Lukey Barlow said...

Molly, you have rich depths to plumb! Lovely, lovely. As I read, I feel the lively wind outside amd the cold stone floor within, hear the distant babble of women, smell the steamy oat bread, feel the tug of desire for a pretty bit of pottery, the sense of injustice when it is denied, and the absorbing inner arguements about how much, if anything, might be gained by pushing the point, or whether it would be wiser not to try.

Tracey Petersen said...

Beautiful memories! My grandfather had an old house on 10 acres. The whole thing has been swallowed up and re-developed, but in amongst the new homes they left my grandad's old cottage and one of the giant mango trees. It almost made me cry when I saw it.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

It sounds like wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing them.

Aunty Evil said...

I still have wonderful memories of my grandmother's house and the houses of her sisters, which to me as a child, were a treasure trove. We were never allowed to touch anything, but ohhh, we were happy just to look.

nutmeg said...

I don't wish to dredge up any uncomfortable memories (so please excuse this question if need be) but have you been able to re-appropriate that dainty mug? It's got me very intrigued now :-)

Tanya Brown said...

This was an especially warm and cozy post. The old house sounds like a treasure; what a shame that it burned down.