Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Rhododendrons Bloomed on a Friday by Jess Butterworth

My Grandma as a child outside the Taj Mahal 

My writing has always been inspired by my Grandma; as a child she would take my hand and tell me stories about her life as we walked through the foothills of the Himalayas, winding between the rhododendron trees.  As soon as I was old enough, I went off in search of my own adventures. Later, when I was pursuing my dream of being published, the rejections allowed my self-doubt to flourish but she was never fazed by them. Just keep going, she would say. So I did. 

I’m grateful to hold some strong women as role models. And Grandma is one of them. As a young woman she escaped an arranged engagement to a man much older than her, and fell in love and married my Grandpa in India. He had been a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp during WWII when he was just eighteen years old, which Grandma said gave him a seize the day attitude.
When people scorned at Grandma for being an opera singer in her early twenties, declaring it would give her a reputation as a loose woman, she ignored them all and did it anyway.  And in 1950, when the community she was in turned against her good friend Alfred because he was gay, she refused to be part of that community anymore. 

My second book is very much inspired by my Grandma’s life and her love of animals. She travelled with my Grandpa, their four children, a border collie, a Pekinese and a joey kangaroo from Australia to India by boat and land, before ending up on the Himalayan foothill I grew up on. They lived there with Alfred. He was a painter and my Grandpa was a photographer. 

My Grandma died on Friday, the same day the rhododendrons bloomed. They were her favourite flowers. Every time I walk past them my heart breaks, I miss her terribly. Each time, I take a deep breath and remember that she’s here in other ways: in my heart and memories; through her stories; the people that knew her and the kick-ass grandchildren she leaves behind. 

 By Jess Butterworth 

@j_t_butterworth (twitter) 
@jessbutterworthauthor (facebook)


Sue Purkiss said...

She sounds wonderful!

Val Tyler said...

A very warm and loving tribute, a delight to read.

Rowena House said...

Ah, Jess. So sorry. A beautiful tribute to an amazing-sounding lady.

Becca McCallum said...

What beautiful photos to have of her.