My aunt was small, neat.
Going to bed she cosseted shining plaits
into a floral night-cap.
Four small kiss-curls high above her wide blue eyes
would be pinned carefully under its frothy lace
before ribbons were tied underneath her determined little chin.
A pinny - fresh each day -
reached well below her knees.
Stockings were darned, seams straight.
Shoes polished, buttoned, brown. Black on Sunday.
My little aunt spent Mondays tip-toed on wood boards,
to feed a vast copper steaming in the misted scullery.
Dwarfed by wash-day, she was barely able to reach the top.
She scrubbed sheets, towels and shirts
as the water boiled and bubbled.
A ‘dolly’, taller than my aunt plunged deeply
into the weekly wash, the air filled with the scent
of lavender and soap.
We had a cold lunch on Monday. My aunt,
flushed and exhausted , ate, then rested until two,
when - on the dot - she and her sister
would thread the heap of soaking laundry
into the squeaky blue mangle that stood
in the yard outside the kitchen door.
Summer, winter, no element ever stopped them.
Sitting at the big kitchen table, with not a hair out of place,
tea was poured there were scones and cakes,
home-made jam heaped upon crusty bread.
She cared for us all,
laughed with us,
She would say ‘blast!’
when things went wrong.
We loved her.
Her name was Jenny