A Genealogical Study
MEMORIES OF GRANDMA ROSIE
by angela lambert
Rose Lyons was born in London on 9 January 1900, the third of 12 children of Isaiah (aka Dick) Lyons and Elsie Lyons (née Rose). In 1925, she married Maurice Lambert, and had two children, Leatrice (1926) and Alan (c.1928). At the beginning of World War II, Rose and her family moved to Leicester, along with her siblings. Maurice died in 1976 and Rose continued to live in Leicester until her death in 1994, at the age of 94. Here, her granddaughter, Angela Lambert, shares some of her childhood memories of her Grandma Rosie.
(left) Grandma Rosie and Grandpa Morrie.
Chopped liver, chicken soup (with tiny eggs in it), cinnamon balls, fried fish eaten cold, smoked salmon and pickled cucumbers are the foods I remember were served to me and my family often and in huge quantities, whenever we visited Grandma Rosie and Grandpa Morrie.
Grandma would delight in piling a large plate with as much delicious food as she could and, as children, my brother Larry, sister Sara and I would be seated "inside" on the large sofa, each with a small table in front of us, watching "I Love Lucy" on the television, when in would come Grandpa, trying not to drop the plates (which he sometimes did).
We were encouraged to eat it all…which wasn’t really possible. I can still remember the flavours and aromas of those meals and it has given me a lifelong love of Jewish food.
Grandma Rosie loved everything to be "gay". This meant that the house was decorated in pinks and turquoises and everywhere were colourful ornaments. I particularly remember, in the lounge (always known as "inside"), the "Isle of Capri" music box, which played that tune when opened and had a postcard picture of the Isle on its lid. On the mantelpiece were Spanish costumed dolls and a pair of Welsh (I think) dolls too. Grandma said that they had been so poor when she was a child that she had never had a doll. I expect these were to make up for that childhood longing. I also remember the pedestal ashtrays in chrome and the art deco drinks trolley. Our drinks were served in frosted glasses in jewel colours, with gold stripes. I was fond of these and so, when Grandma died and my Father asked if there was something of hers I’d like, I asked for the glasses. I saw some similar in a junk shop in Dinard, somewhere Grandma and Grandpa had visited. I wonder whether they bought the glasses there?
On the dining room door, latterly Grandma’s bedroom, were two butterfly decorations. In that room, I remember a lamp, heavily encrusted with jewelled glass, made by Grandma.
Grandma did the decorating and so the morning room was wallpapered in a rose pattern. This was where she sat to have meals, and we would sit and have tea with her and Grandpa there too. In the cupboard to the left of the fireplace, Grandma kept her make up and hair styling equipment. Grandma kept her hair blonde and always wore full make up. She had beautiful skin and not a wrinkle! She also liked to wear nail varnish and brightly coloured clothes. She took great pride in her appearance, so was rather perplexed when, on a trip to the town centre, she found people seemed to be staring at her oddly. Having stopped for a coffee in Brucciani’s, a well-known café in Leicester, Grandma visited the ladies powder room, where she found, to her amusement (and probably a little embarrassment), that she had only pencilled in one of her eyebrows! This did not deter her from wanting to enhance not only her appearance, but also Grandpa Morrie’s. Once, she decided he’d look more youthful if she dyed his hair. Poor Grandpa had to suffer the indignity of red hair until it washed out!
I believe that her early years, being so poor and having to leave rented accommodation in the middle of the night with her parents and large family, and because her father had gambled the rent money, led to Grandma wanting to surround herself with colour. It also gave her a fortitude which is inspiring.
Grandma Rosie was a very strong woman. Examples of this are many and include her tale of walking to the hospital when she was in labour. In her later years, she had young burglars get into her bedroom on two occasions. Of course, she must have been frightened, but she withstood both incidents and refused to move in with my father.
The time I was most grateful to have her with me was when my father had a brain tumour removed in 1980. We went to visit him the same evening and he was unrecognisable, due to having had his head shaved, the swelling and bruising. Grandma didn’t bat an eyelid and just talked to him as though nothing had changed. I was then able to follow suit.
Grandma often spoke of her love for Grandpa Morrie. They met at the factory where they both worked for a few shillings a week. She said that a rich young man wanted to marry her, but she married Grandpa because she loved him - oh, and he was rather handsome too!!!
Grandma and Grandpa liked to travel abroad in their later years. Grandma enjoyed the glamour of foreign climes. She spoke fondly of going to the casino in Monte Carlo and in the ladies powder room, there were rows and rows of beautiful lipsticks, which she delighted in telling us about.
As a teenager, I found Grandma’s "tips" rather annoying (she once gave us a book called "Tips and Wrinkles"). I was not yet confident enough in my own opinions to take her advice in the well-meaning manner it was given. She would phone with health advice and news of something which was "the finest thing for you", from her newspaper or magazine. I now have to admit to being rather similar, inasmuch as I am inclined to find the latest in health ideas and products and pass them on to my loved ones too!!!
As a mother, she was dominant and disinclined to notice that my father had grown up. When he was a young man doing national service in the Royal Air Force, Rosie telephoned my father’s commanding officer and told him that she didn’t want her son to fly in any planes! Again, as a mother myself, I have some sympathy with her point of view now!!!
Grandma Rosie was not a lover of the open countryside. She felt it was a waste of space which could be better utilised perhaps by building over it! On a trip with my father and stepmother to Dorset, Grandma was seriously unimpressed by the sight of Corfe Castle, a beautiful ruin. She wondered why they didn’t just pull it down. I can only imagine that this disinterest in the delights of the natural and wild open countryside stemmed from her upbringing in the East End of London, which held fond memories for her. Grandma always spoke warmly of her mother, who she said I resembled.
Grandma always called us "darling love" as a term of endearment and any lull in conversation would be filled with her phrase "and so we go on". Grandma had a strong sense of family and would have liked weekly meals out with my father, mother and, later, my stepmother, to extend to include a monthly gathering of the family "on the first Tuesday (say) of every month". As young people, my brother, sister and I were not keen to be tied to such an arrangement.
Grandma Rosie was a hugely capable and independent woman. She did the decorating and gardening well into old age and managed to live alone with little help until she died, aged 94, in 1994.
In her final days, I visited her and, although she mistook me at first for her daughter, Leatrice, she was fully conscious and on the ball. She even enquired about our house sale and gave me advice on how to deal with awkward purchasers! I was glad to be able to sit and hold her hand and feel some measure of closeness and comfort at the end of her life.
During her lifetime, I perhaps was not as close to Grandma Rosie as I might have been. She tended to dominate my father’s time and I was, perhaps, jealous of their bond. As I look back now, I remember her with fondness and see this as an opportunity to honour her memory and give future generations a glimpse into the character of Rose Lyons Lambert.
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