Sunday, July 26, 2009

Savvy Auntie's Day

My adopted Aunty Thelma is second from the right. The other people in the photo are, from the left, her eldest brother, Les, her twin, Joan, her mother, Hazel, and on the right, her father, Les Archer.

A few weeks ago I learnt that 26 July is Savvy Auntie's Day - a day when we can show our appreciation to all aunts, great aunts and godmothers. So in honour of all aunts everywhere, whether aunts by blood or by choice, I thought I'd post this poem, which is a tribute to an adopted aunt of mine, who grew up in a motorcycling family and broke a motorcycling record together with her twin, at Brooklands, when she was still just 15. A remarkable achievement at any time, let alone in the 1930s.

My adopted Aunty Thelma on her successful record-breaking attempt at Brooklands in the 1930s

The Adopted Aunt

A dear, old friend of the father,
this adopted Aunty Thelma,
a motorcyling passion combining
and open directness,
dryness of wit and
keen sharpness of mind
subtly enticing.

The surname Archer,
synonymous with motorbikes
in long-lost 1930s England,
inseparable from her sisterly twin,
both perfectly at home on those
roaring two-wheeled machines,
clad in helmet and leathers,
racing round Brooklands
at incredible speed,
models of skill
and consummate ease -
the world record broken,
an awesome feat and
wasn't it a breeze?
Yet she and her sister
still so young and innocent,
world record holders,
though not yet sixteen,
everyone safe, thank God!
And the bikes? Not a dent!

Flouting conventions
and blazing a trail
for the women of tomorrow
to follow and pave -
like beacons shining their lights
to those who are still far away,
yet rolling ever nearer
in wave after wave.
Yet when day turns to night,
this beacon called Thelma
discards the leathers,
the grease and the grime
and in graceful dress of mirrored silk,
moving with curved elegance
to the music of brass and string,
she turns men's heads,
making their hearts gleefully sing.

One she then finds and
married life starts,
house and work,
exercise and travel,
nieces and nephews,
godchildren galore
filling the seconds
and minutes of her days...
Among them two girls,
honorary nieces of
this old friend called Nick,
showered unfailingly
every birthday and Christmas
with cards of delight
and presents of wonder...
Into adulthood and beyond,
for almost half a century,
though bodily ills dissipate
energy and activity,
no birthday or Christmas is forgot.

No blood aunt could have shown
more love or compassion,
greater thoughtfulness or kindness
or heart steadier, more generous.
No relative could have given
greater cheerfulness or warmth
on visits to that cottage of ancient charm,
nestling in Hampshire countryside
of verdant green,
nourishing the soul with beauty,
peace and calm.

Time has now had its final say,
yet memories of a woman
tall and fashionable,
with happiness of heart
and lightness of smile,
of unceasing strength and dignity
as the lengthening years took their toll,
will most surely gladden the heart
in the days that are to come,
filling it with gratitude and thanks
for a wonderful soul,
freed now from physical bonds
and enriching eternity
with its infinite grace
and endless, glowing charity.

Thank you, Aunty Thelma,
for thinking of us so kindly
through all the many, many years,
for touching our hearts
with zest and joy...
You are family, indeed,
the love in our hearts tells us so,
and we will never forget you,
as witnessed by our smiling tears.

Copyright © Helena Harper

(This poem will be added to my other poems in my collection Family and More - Enemies or Friends?, when it is published as a paperback.)

What memories do you have of your aunts - adopted or otherwise? Feel free to share.


  1. My godmother who I knew as "Auntie" was a special person to me. Mum and family was evacuated in the war( before I came along) Auntie took them in and for a few years they stayed with her. Mum found a home of her own,when I was born Auntie was my godmother , then we all moved back to mum's home town. We kept in touch with Auntie by going to visit her each year. She was a lovely person and a pleasure to know.

    I did so enjoy your post and poem, brought back some happy memories for me.


  2. Thank you, Yvonne, for that. Your "Auntie" sounds very much like my adopted Aunt, who was in actual fact godmother to my sister. It just shows really that being 'family' is not a question of being a blood relative. Anyone can be 'family'. I'm so pleased my poem brought back happy memories for you.

    Hope you are well and your writing is going well, too.

    All the best