Keeping It In the Family

A copy of this story was posted onto AlveChurchMorris.org.uk

 

My dad and I pulled up in front of Nanna Victoria’s century old brick and ivy covered house. The driveway was occupied only by my mother’s car which arrived earlier today, and really was nothing more than a wrap-around gravel pit with a dried up fountain in the center, which was also covered in ivy.

It was the middle of summer, and all I could think about was the refreshing feel of cold water on my skin and all of my school mates that were waiting for me at Francis’ pool party back home. I had to skip out on my best mate’s pool party so I could come all the way out here to the country to visit Nanna, whom I only have met maybe twice in my entire life. Nothing about today was going to be any fun, I could already tell.

As we climbed out of our older-than-the-discovery-of-fire Saab station wagon, my mother came out of the old ivy covered house. “You all made it!” she shouted to us. She crossed to my father and me and gave us hugs. “Mum’s inside, and she can’t wait to see you Beth! Come along.”

In the house’s parlor sat Nanna Victoria, just as old as I pictured her to be, if not a little more so. “There’s my beautiful granddaughter!” she let out as she pushed herself to her feet. “Let me have a look at you, how old are you now, dearie?” She looked me over and even made me twirl around for her.

“Fourteen.” I answered as I finished my requested flourish. “Fourteen, goodness girl, you’re old enough to be a respectable and full-grown lady of society!” she commented as she lowered herself back into her seat.

While my mum brought out tea for us all, I slipped away from them. If I was going to be stuck here all afternoon, I would at least explore this old place to pass the time.

The upstairs smelled of stale air, as if not a single window had been opened in at least a decade. The entire upstairs hallway was lined with old photographs, most of which seemed to feature my mother. There were photos of my mum graduating Uni, my mum at her wedding, and then an odd photo: a black and white picture of what looked like my mum dancing with four other’s with what looked like small bells strapped to their legs. There were long wooden rods in all of their hands.

“That one was taken a long time ago. I still remember” a small voice from behind me said. I whipped around to see Nanna Victoria standing there, leaning on her cane. “That was me in 1952. I was very good. Won competitions you know.”

“Competitions? At what?” I choked out, my heart still thumping from the surprise Nanna just gave me.

“You don’t know what that is dear?” she said, squinting. “That’s Morris dancing, don’t they teach you about that in school these days? You are English aren’t you?”

“Well, yes Nanna, of course I am, I just don’t know what that is. What is it?”

She sighed heavily and waived for me to follow her into one of the rooms that lined the hallway. Opening a door, my gaze was met by shelves of trophy’s, ribbons, medals, and a costume on a mannequin adorned with silver bells on the stockings. On the wall beside it were a set of swords and a set of polished wooden sticks.

“This is Morris dancing, dearie. All of this.” she said.

Stepping inside, I couldn’t help but stare at all the photographs of her in her elegant and proper costumes. “Morris dancing is one of the oldest English traditions that we as a people have dear.” she began. “It’s our heritage to celebrate it. The elegance, the fashion, the beauty of the choreography… all of it is a celebration of our noble and gentile heritage.”

“It looks like you were very good at it.” I said as I leaned closer to the photographs.

“I was spectacular, and your mother was too. Look over there” she said as she pointed at the far wall. In the photo was my mum, Morris dancing with what looked like my uncles and aunts. “Your entire family has a tradition of it” She went on. “I’m surprised your own mum hasn’t made you try it.”

“She never mentioned it.” I replied. “Well Elizabeth,” Nanna said, leaning on her cane. “I could teach you a thing or two about it. That is, if you have the time for your grandmother today.”

I straightened up and looked at the elegant bell-bearing costume on display and the swords and rods behind it. “It is your heritage too, after all dearie.” She added.

“Alright,” I stated. “I guess finding out more about all this could be pretty cool. How do you start?”

Nanna smiled ear to ear. “Oh, we’ve got a lot to show you, dear. Tell me, how coordinated are you with your feet and your hands? Do you remember how to ‘patty-cake’ from when you were a small child, and how well can you keep a fast beat?”

“I know how to dance, Nanna, if that’s what you’re asking” I responded. Nanna began to chuckle.

“Not like this you don’t, dearie. But here, let me teach you how to dance like the true and noble English-woman that you are.”

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