Sub-zero temps, piles of snow, the end of the holiday festivities—maybe it’s time to hunker down a bit and clean out some files. In the process of doing that, I came across a letter written to me by my maternal grandmother on the occasion of my engagement in 1958. It gave me a nostalgic look at another time and a new appreciation for my British grandmother, Gertrude Amy Payton, born in 1876.
Here are a few excerpts:
My wish to you both—that you will have chosen wisely and will be as happy as I was in my short married life. Take my sound advice, dear girl, and be sure that David is insured before marriage. Life is uncertain and I should not like to think you had a married life as short as mine was. I had to be both parents in one and my children had a difficult life. They were deprived of food, clothes and toys, etc. That is what has made them all such fine characters and so wonderful to me in my old days.
Your gift is money, dear, with my very best wishes. Take a little of it for a present, the rest to the bank and promise not to touch it except in an emergency. If you are teaching, you won’t need many dresses. You won’t have time to wear them and fashions soon change.
Happiness in this world is bringing your wants down to necessities. When your mother said you took 15 skirts back to school, I thought of my own two cloth skirts, now very old. Please, dear, don’t buy anything on “hire purchase.” Better to go without. My Charlie, 55 years ago, said it would be the ruin of England. Like living a lie, having things you can’t afford to pay for. Pare down and don’t owe a penny.
An engagement is a testing time. I made Charlie promise to tell me of my faults and I would do the same for him. I did not like him smoking a pipe before breakfast. He left off that. We were engaged for two years. Love covers a multitude of sins.
Life is not easy these days. The old Victorian days were slow but sure, heavy-going and thrifty.
Leave cocktails alone and smoking—two ways for money to vanish.
Well dearie, “Elizabeths are born to rule and bound to command.” Live up to your name and follow your mother except, do not smoke.
Your fond Granny Payton