Sunday, 18 March 2012

Memories

Sonata : This weekend was all about memories . We went down to Gent on Friday afternoon for an early funeral on Saturday morning and were immediately swept back to 1980 . The centre of the city has moved on , of course , all glitzy shops , elegant customers and bright lights among the medieval walls but the side streets stay just the same as always , little cafes and bistros serving Gentse stoverij and steaks the size of a baby's head , full of serious eaters and families with well behaved children . Restored , we sat for hours in a small cafe , listening to Elvis and surrounded by chunky old men , all woolly jumpers , jowels and comb-overs .
The funeral itself was just as one should be with the knowledge that it had been the right time for him to go , however sad .
Later , the family gathered and legends were dug up and retold . A little boy ran in , his exact resemblance to his grandfather startling , while a baby determinedly crawled backwards and forwards over my lap , looking just like her mother when I first saw her , forty years ago .
The tumble of children went off to the verandah , the older ones supervising the proper progression from cold meats to chocolate spread on an unending supply of crusty rolls . A huge table was filled with food and plates were passed round . The merits of different local hams were debated and one cheese was eaten to the last crumb as everyone enthused . The splendidness of the local baker was universally acknowledged . The plates of macaroons , florentines and chocolates were all enjoyed . It was , after all , a very Belgian occasion .
People took it in turns to sit next to a very frail aunt whose grasp of the here and now was vague but whose smile was as kind as it had always been . Garden improvements and children's homework were admired . Little cousins scaled a climbing frame , sisters-in-law vied to hold the baby . Fishing tales were laughed about and photos examined .
As we left , the widow stood , arm in arm with her daughters , knowing that between them , they'd keep it all going for the next generation .

13 comments:

rachel said...

Lovely account. I was born in Ghent, and have happy memories of visiting again as a young child. Perhaps it's time to go back again....

Loz and Dinny said...

So beautiful. I'm a little teary. I love a good send off.

Tania said...

You brought a wobble to the lower lip. If I could script a send-off, I reckon that would be it.

English Rider said...

Told like a snapshot in time, to be taken out and treasured again and again. I'm almost jealous.

Jane Lock said...

You write so beautifully x

Molly said...

Is it too weird to wish I'd been there? To a funeral of someone I never even knew? But I do......Because of how you told it.

Friko said...

A proper continental send-off. I remember them well. There was drink at ours and as the afternoon progressed, laughter became louder and even the ladies' cheeks reddened. During the 'celebrations', the widow remained sad, occasionally howling out loud, and all the females gathered round her to comfort her. But, on the whole, a good time was had by all. It's one of the few occasions when absolutely everybody in the family gets together at the same time.

Liz said...

What a beautiful post! So well-described I could have been there.

love those cupcakes said...

Such a very good goodbye and I love how you've captured the little details.

Rattling On said...

It sounds like so many family gatherings I have been to . Trestle tables, children everywhere, reminiscences. It seems wrong to enjoy a funeral, but in the right context it's just what should happen.
A friend of mine died on Saturday after a long illness, so young (relatively speaking) and a really lovely man. These are the hard ones to accept.

Deborah said...

Exquisitely painted, S&S. My brief acquaintance with Gent made me think the '1980' was a typo, though. This could easily have been scenes out of a Merchant/Ivory film, but a Belgian one of course.

Marcheline said...

Whoa. That was amazing.

colleen said...

I suspect that took us all back in time. Beautifully expressed, and a wonderful memory.