Thursday, 20 August 2009
When I was a little girl, my father's grandma gave him a quilt for me. Great grandma was a faery, papa told me and the quilt was made to protect me. Papa told me that great grandma told him that all things are alive but some live with their silence, like books. I was very young when papa told me all this, but I never forgot it. I met great grandma once, she was tall and very beautiful. I remember that I thought she was a princess for she seemed so beautiful. I could scarcely believe that she was my great grandma either, for she seemed so young. But she told me that the faerie live for a lot longer than we ordinary people do. She gave me a necklace and a ring made of silver - moon's metal she called it.
I wore that necklace to school when I started new as a teenager. I was bullied at first and remember coming home furious and burning with shame. Yet, when I awoke the next morning from under great grandma's quilt I felt somehow unafraid and strong. I read the words on my quilt and found myself smiling again. At the school gates the bullies waited for me.
A bigger girl said she liked my necklace and I should give it to her. I answered that if she wanted it, let her take it. She reached out to grab at it and I tried to put up my hands, but was held back by her friends. Her fingers closed about the necklace then suddenly time seemed to slow down about me. Silvery tendrils seemed to burst from the pendant and close about her hand and there was a soft rustling sound in the air, almost like autumn leaves being driven by the wind or a silk dress in motion. Then time returned to its customary speed and the bigger girls suddenly screamed and let go of the pendant and ran away. The other girls followed her leaving me alone. I heard the soft voice of my great grandma in the air around me.
"You will be protected my love."
I did not doubt it and from that moment on I was never bullied again. I went through school with steady but good progress. I had an aptitude for history and for languages, which my father told me came from his mother's side of the family. Certainly my mum was not a languages person, she was much more familiar with numbers and sciences. She did not believe in faeries, but my father and I humoured her. We knew only too well to believe otherwise. All throughout my childhood I felt my great grandma's presence around me.
I went to university and began to study history and folklore. To my lecturer's evident surprise I was extremely good at it. I would always read the words on my quilt and enjoyed them: Poetry Collection, Silent Inspirations, Stitches on the Oregon Trail, Awakenings, "Sentimental Journey", Age of Innocence, Matters of the Heart, Dimensions, Quilt Room, "Cherished Memories", Keepsake and all the rest all over the quilt.
I began to study Nicholas Hilliard the Elizabethan painter of miniatures. It was to my surprise that I came upon a miniature at the Victoria and Albert Museum of an unknown woman. Somehow I knew her, for I recognised in her mass of coppery hair and the line of her jaw, my great grandma. It is true that she has green eyes, but Hilliard had obviously portrayed her from memory as a letter to her showed. How did I get that letter?
I had wondered when I saw the portrait and I thought of her. How could I show that this woman was not unknown? As if I had known all along where to look, I came across a letter to her in a series of letters by Hilliard. She had called herself Lady Spenser and he had not seen the allusion that I had. She was not Lady Spenser at all, she was of faerie and they do not give up their names for those who have their names have power over them. To me she was always Great Grandma and it never occurred to me to call her anything else. I did a little more research and found that 'Lady Spenser' had been somehow responsible for the downfall of the Spanish Armada, though she had publicly put this down to the bad weather. I smiled at that, for who could understand the weather if not the faeries. I wrote my PhD on Hilliard and the Faeries.
My lecturer was fascinated by my thesis and after all my sources had been verified I gained my PhD. I decided to go into teaching, but I was still interested in Hilliard and why I had found all the source material so easily. I lay awake one night trying to puzzle it out until I sat up and thought of my great grandma. I whispered for her in the still cold night of my bedroom and through the door she came, sitting down on the edge of my bed as she had done occasionally when I was a little girl.
"I got my doctorate great grandma," I told her.
"As I knew you would my love - ah but you have learned a little more about family have you not?" she answered softly.
"Did you want me to know?" I asked her reaching for her hand, cool and soft on the quilt.
Her eyes seemed to drift away from the present and she smiled a warm, passionate, loving smile. She said nothing, merely turning her eyes to mine.
"Nicholas was a dear sweet man and I loved him for as long as he lasted. I wanted you to understand how old we faeries are and how we go on. It is our sorrow to be immortal and watch those we love fade and - die. You will notice that your father lives a very long life. That is because he has our blood in him, but his human side means that he too must die. I will weep for him as I will in your turn weep for you. But I will not forget any of those I have loved, for they have been my delight and my joy. I wanted also in your discoveries to remember him again. He was quite the lutenist you know and with my help he became a fine painter of portraits. I - inspired him and I loved him. It was what I could do for him. But I could not help him become immortal and he poor darling could not understand," she said, her voice clear in the soft darkness.
She held me then, close in her arms and caressed my hair as she had when I was young and she wept. I knew that I would become a memory - a faerie memory among a million others, but that I would not be forgotten by her I did not doubt. She was my great grandma after all.