Tuesday 26 April 2011

April A to Z blogging challenge Violets

This is an edited version for the A to Z blogging challenge of a story I wrote a few months ago.
My grandmother lived a short distance from our house and I visited her every day. She was a gracious old lady who had been an important part of my young life. Sometimes I stayed with her and slept in her guest bedroom, a pretty room decorated in lavender and white.

I enjoyed the bedtime ritual in her house. First I would have a bath in the claw-foot tub in her huge, chilly bathroom and then wrap myself in one of her large soft white towels and go through to her bedroom where she would brush my hair – one hundred strokes counted out in her soft voice as the bristles swept smoothly through my long straight locks. Then she would give me her box of talcum powder and I would dip the puff into the silky dust, loving the feel of the satin ribbon between my fingers. Sometimes she would dab a little of her perfume on my wrists – it matched the powder – then I would feel so grown up.

Whenever I stayed with her she gave me a sprigged nightgown to wear that had belonged to my mother when she was a child. It had a high neck and long sleeves and fell from a smocked yoke to my feet in gentle folds. There was plenty of room in it to tuck up my feet until they were warm enough to make contact with the cool bed linen.

Then we would go downstairs to the sitting room, a room full of curios and books and plants. The subdued light made the room welcoming and comfortable and though I must have stayed with my grandmother at different times of the year, it is the winter evenings that I recall most clearly, a log fire burning brightly in the grate and casting flickering shadows on the walls and ceiling. My face would grow hot as I leant forward to hold the long toasting fork ever closer to the glowing coals. Crumpets dripping with butter and honey – ‘As many as you like,’ she always said and I would hug myself with glee at the promise. At home such treats were strictly rationed and I always longed for more.

Strangely, at my grandmother’s house I never managed to eat more than the two I was given at home, but it was the thought that I could have more if I wanted that gave me a wonderful feeling of being indulged. Afterwards my grandmother would read to me as I sipped hot chocolate from a delicate china mug. When the story finished, always at the same moment that I drained the last sweetness, my grandmother would hold out her hand and together we would climb the stairs. She would tuck me in, pulling the sheet and blankets firmly round me so that I felt safe and contained. She would kiss me – ‘Night, night, sleep tight. Sweet dreams.’

I would turn on my side and draw up my knees and gaze around the room, lit by a night light – my grandmother knew I hated the dark. The pictures on the walls were of flowers that she had painted and framed - primroses, honeysuckle, bluebells. The curtains and bedspread were soft cotton patterned with tiny pink rosebuds entwining dainty violets. On the bedside table, next to the water carafe and glass, was a small charmingly decorated tin of Parma violets more treasured for their scent than their taste. They smelt like my grandmother – or should it be that she smelt like them?

The next morning I would go home, happy to join my family once more and knowing that I would see my grandmother the next day. I thought I would see her every day for the rest of my life.

My granddaughter lives nearby and visits me most days. Sometimes she stays overnight. Yesterday she burst in excitedly. ‘Look, Grandma, look at these. Aren’t they lovely? Mummy put them in a special box for me. She said you’d like them.’ She thrust a tissue wrapped parcel into my hand and hopped from foot to foot, impatient for me to open it.

The first thing I saw was the lid with its painted flowers and I knew, before I removed it, what was inside. Slowly I took off the top and there, nestled in shreds of lavender paper, were Parma violets. The released scent filled the air. I offered one to my granddaughter. She smelt it then put it in her mouth. ‘Ugh!’ she said and I smiled. I don’t like the taste, either, but the smell reminds me of my grandmother – it was the cologne she always wore. 


  1. I remember this and it was a pleasure to read again, just lovely.

  2. What a beautiful story of childhood memories. I wish I had known more of my grandmothers. My last grandmother died when I was six. Now I am hoping that I am making grandmother memories for my own grandchildren! (As I can see YOU are.)

  3. Wonderful memories of your childhood and your grandmother. I also use to love spending the night at my granmothers house. And some of my memories are of scents of lavender.

  4. J. - Thank you so much for sharing your memories with us. Violets are so dainty. What a wonderful story! How nice that one of your family traditions is to live close by each other.

    I've been thinking about writing about staying at my grandparents before my Grandpa died. They owned a country store and lived in an apartment in the back. You have given me inspiration.

    Hope that your day goes well,

    Kathy M.

  5. What a sweet story and wonderful memory! Thanks!

  6. What a lovely story! Thank you so much for sharing your grandmother with us. I grew up across the ocean from my Grannies and so seldom experienced their sweet indulgence. It's the one thing I'd ask for if I could jump in Doctor Who's time machine - to go and visit my Grannie and Grandpa!

  7. This story is quite cozy and sentimental.

  8. So beautiful, Janice. I have wonderful memories of both of my grandmothers, and am so grateful that my mother's parents lived until I was almost 40.
    My mother also had a raft of childless aunts, all of whom lived until I was an adult. I remember so many pretty sets of china, framed pictures of flowers, dainty delicacies and floral scents, so many that they're all mixed up in my memory, a potpourri of post-Victorian femininity.
    -- K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  9. Great memories! I enjoyed reading this as my grandmother was also very special...to me, anyway...and she also lived very close to me. How lucky your granddaughter lives so close so she can grow wonderful memories too!

  10. This was such a beautifully written post. I could imagine the wonderful time you had with your grandmother. She left you with precious memories to always keep her spirit alive. Now you are doing the same for your granddaughter. Thank you for sharing these beautiful moments with us.

  11. What delightful childhood memories, there is something special about the bond between a grandmother and child.

    I have wonderful memories of walks through my grandmother's garden. Asking the name of each bloom she would tell me not only the names but sometimes we would make up stories to go with them.

  12. A beautiful story and so well told. It triggered a lot of memories for me too....the loose talcum powder with the puff and the smell of palma violets.

    I really enjoyed reading. :-)

  13. lovely treasured memories - you are doubly fortunate to have them and to create new ones

  14. Thank you, everyone. Sadly, this story is fictional. I met only one of my grandmothers, and only once when I was around five years old. None of my grandchildren live nearby. It's good to dream, though:-)

  15. I so enjoyed this story...just the kind of life I might invent for my own inner child. We moved to Canada when I was young, leaving the grandparents and cousins behind, so I have no such memories. Your attention to detail and the involvement of all the senses made this very real and poignant...


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