My Granny was born at the end of the nineteenth century in rural Australia. In the 1960s she and Grandpa retired from a successful small business and went on a world cruise.
When I was a child, my family would make the long drive to stay with Granny for the holidays. In the early morning I would creep into her bedroom before anyone else was awake. She would invite me into her warm bed and tell me stories of her world cruise adventures.
Well, actually she would tell me one story about the single most exciting aspect of her trip: nylon dresses she could hand wash and hang up to dry overnight. She may have also told me about exotic countries and extraordinary sights. I don’t remember. If she did, these stories never outstripped her pleasure and awe in these miraculous nylon dresses.
Granny saved the colourful luggage labels from her cruise and put them on display. She died when I was a teenager and they were the one thing of hers I really wanted to have.
Even with contemporary reframing, they are increasingly golden and translucent under years of ageing paste and varnish. That doesn’t matter. After I die there will be nobody else who will find meaning in them anyway.
But for me they are about both an important life and a relationship of deep significance to me. They are about a girl growing up on a farm doing the exhausting weekly work of hand washing a family’s clothes. A girl who couldn’t possibly imagine the changes and inventions the twentieth century would bring to her life.
And perhaps they are also a reminder that we can take as much pleasure in the ‘everyday’ as we do in our ‘once in a lifetime’ adventures.