this is my mum at her twenty first in the early sixties.
when i looked at this photo i was struck with the contrast to today's coming of age birthdays. eighteen is of course the legal age of majority and twenty one still has a cultural significance. for both of them the gift of choice seems to be alcohol and it seems such a shame. alcohol is a consumable, drunk and forgotten. even worse, it is an intoxicating consumable so in celebration of their own or their friends' adulthood kids have some drinks, behave badly, put themselves in danger of accident or assault and vomit.
by contrast, mum's gifts had a place in our lives for years to come. i remember the lamp being used as a bedside light, the wire magazine rack on the right was eventually painted black and used for a pot plant, the rug at the back is still in service, the books would have been enjoyed and might still be around, towels used to establish my parents' household, eventually to be the family home,then there are the porcelain vases, not greatly admired by mum, they were icons of beauty and glamour to a little girl growing up in the seventies.
gifts like the ones mum received might these days be regarded as overly domestic, maybe even as symbolising the domestic servitude of women but in giving these things mum's friends and family were wishing for her a life rich in small pleasures, a good book, a picnic with family, bedtime stories by a soft light, even the smallish vases compared to today's grander versions might have encouraged an appreciation of the beauty in a single stem or small posy of flowers. i like to think that the gifts given to my mum were representative of a life made rich through gratitude, experience and love.