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Mrs. Jonah Powell


Earleywood Orchard CottageThe quaint cottage where Mrs. Jonah Powell lives–Earleywood Orchard Cottage, South Ascot.

I first met my dad’s godmother when I was six years old. We went on vacation for three weeks to England—my dad’s first visit there since his family immigrated to Canada when he was a year old. This seventy-something year old woman came racing out of her cottage with joy as we pulled up, arms outstretched and calling out “DAVID!” She was overjoyed to see him, to see all of us. She had been my granny’s close friend since elementary school, but since my grandparents had moved to Canada, she’d only seen Andrée, my granny, perhaps once. And then my granny died in her early sixties from cancer. Jonah’s delight at meeting my dad again after forty-some years was evident. We spent a few wonderful days with her, sleeping in charming rooms in her small Earleywood Orchard Cottage, exploring her “Wendy” house (a small, wooden playhouse tucked away in the corner of her large garden), playing “catch” with her, watching her climb her apple tree and mow her large lawn running up and down it with her push mower, and enjoying our meals in the sunny garden. One would never think she was close to seventy-five years old by the way she poured out her energy.

wendy houseThe Wendy House that was quite new when I played in it at six years old. Now Aria experiences its charm.

Many years passed and I thought about her off and on. Fourteen years later when I was in Italy, I established contact with her again as my friend and I would be passing through London. Unfortunately, a visit didn’t work out and some more time passed. Soon before I got married I began to correspond with her by letter and have continued to do so since then. She always talks about her garden and her apple tree in her letters, the passion of her heart spilling onto the pages.

Beautiful JonahA portrait of Jonah as a war widow, painted shortly after the Second World War.

In spite of our correspondence, I must admit I know little about Mrs. Jonah Powell besides what I’ve observed of her in her company. Besides discovering her close friendship with my granny, who she talks about with tears in her eyes, yet grieving the loss of her friend, I discovered that she’d been widowed twice, the first time when she was in her mid-twenties as a result of the Second World War. She remarried and had two children and later in life, but still relatively early, she was widowed again. Black and white photos of each of her husbands adorn the bookshelf in her sitting room, which she has recently painted apple blossom pink.
When I discovered that I’d be able to visit this dear woman again with my family this May, I was thrilled. I mean, you can only remember so much about a person when you only knew them for a few days at the age of six! We drove slowly through the leafy streets of the now ritzy South Ascot, looking for a cottage that seems a bit out of place amongst the large mansions. Earleywood Orchard Cottage was the third of three houses—Earleywood being the manor, Earleywood Orchard being the servants quarters, and Earleywood Orchard Cottage, the humble, and now quaint, abode of the gardeners. The property is now worth a great deal of money, but the house has hardly changed in the seventeen years since I’d been there last, full of old photographs and faded knickknacks standing frozen in time. We finally found the cottage and were greeted by a most beautiful lady, almost ninety, raising her legs up like a gymnast almost above her face—what a character! At one point during the visit she explains that she almost became a ballet dancer and that was why she was so flexible—my brother and I both heard “belly dancer” and when she heard that she let out a peal of laughter, one of the many laughs we enjoyed during our visit.

picnicA most delicious garden picnic.

She had prayed the day before for clear weather as the garden is a much more pleasant place to be than the damp old house and God answered her prayers. We enjoyed a picnic lunch of roasted chicken, roasted “hock” (really nice ham), whole wheat buns, butter, salad, roasted potatoes, wine, and chocolate graham cookies served on elegant white and blue china plates—now that’s my idea of a picnic! We explored the old garden, looking in the old weathered Wendy House where we spent much time playing on our previous visit, delighting in the apple tree, and enjoying our hostess who had us continually laughing.

dad and jonahMy dad with his lovely godmother, Mrs. Jonah Powell.

What a gift to be such a delight at ninety! Many people one meets at that age are down-trodden with the drudgery and sufferings of years—their beauty seems to have diminished. Jonah’s beauty deepened. She found strength through her sufferings. And it went beyond the loveliness of her appearance dressed in her navy slacks and coral sweater that accented her snowy white hair—it was in her countenance, in her demeanor. I wanted to spend time with her, to get lost in conversation with this charming woman. May I grow up to be as delightful as her!

8 Responses to “Mrs. Jonah Powell”

  1. Jessica
    June 26th, 2006 16:01

    rachel… i so much missed seeing Auntie Jonah- thank you for sharing the delightful time you had with her. for a moment, i felt i was there visiting her again as i had when i was eight! i too hope to be as delightful and beautiful in my life.
    love you!

  2. Beth Goff
    June 26th, 2006 23:31

    Rachel, what a beautiful and accurate picture you’ve painted. You’ve said it well for all of us. Our time with Jonah was so precious.

    Love you!!!

  3. Rachel
    June 26th, 2006 23:38

    Glad you both enjoyed the post and sorry you missed the visit, Jess. However, your own honeymoon is hardly something to skip out on!

    Mum, thanks for posting a comment!:-)

  4. Dave Goff
    June 26th, 2006 23:41

    Good article, Rachel. You certainly gave an accurate, personal portrait of my godmother. Her relationship with us (‘offspring’ of her dear friend, and my mother, Andree) will help keep the relationship alive for 20 more years!!

  5. Rachel
    June 26th, 2006 23:45

    I thought of you when I was writing it, Dad! Glad you liked it.

  6. devon
    June 30th, 2006 22:31

    This was a lovely read and i feel happy and more relaxed just thinking about a sweet and dear old woman over in England who exudes hospitality and cheeriness. I hope i can be like her when i’m old too.

  7. Donna Hall
    July 10th, 2006 08:46

    Your dad’s godmother sounds wonderful! And your writing is so descriptive that I could almost feel like I was there with you.
    My mom will be 93 in Nov. and is that same fun, interesting, type and we all love visiting her and miss her a lot.(she lives about 1000 miles from us.) I am hoping it’s in the gene’s and I will be the kind of 90 year old people love to be around.
    Blessings to you, John, Aria and ??
    Aunt Donna

  8. Rachel
    July 14th, 2006 06:18

    How lovely that your mum is still with you and of that “good stock” that are a delight to those around you—I think you’ll take after her.:-)

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