“George!” commands Rose. “Come and play.”
Her little brother needs no further encouragement. I’m not surprised. After all, we’re surrounded by some great toys and lots of the children’s friends.
There’s even a “magic screen” on the floor with moving pictures that the children can dance on or simply lie on their tummies and observe in wonder.
The only giveaway to our location, is a wall plaque to show that this wonderful play area is in memory of a kind woman who used to work here at the surgery.
That’s right. We are not in an indoor children’s park. We’re at the doctors yet again. And it seems as though all Rose and George’s mates are here too.
In fact, George and I are on a double ticket. He is here for his ears and I’m here for a blood test. I’ve been feeling pretty tired recently and can’t tell if it’s because I’m doing a lot or whether I’m low on iron again.
George goes first…
As I suspected, he has glue ear – something that my daughter had at exactly his age.
“Oh no!” says my daughter when I text her at work during her lunch hour.
I try to assure her that it’s very common. George might well need grommets as she did but it’s much better to find out sooner than later.
However, my daughter and son-in-law’s concern remind me of what it’s like to be a young parent. Every hurdle is new!
“I think it’s the same for us,” points out one of my granny friends who is sitting next to me, waiting for her appointment.
“They say that looking after your children’s children is like getting on a bike again – but you forget how many sharp corners and twisty bends there are.”
Very true! Although there’s also that wonderful rush of excitement (rather like freewheeling down a hill) when you have a trouble-free granny day!
We then go from George’s appointment to mine. Both children watch open mouthed as the nurse inserts a needle to take blood. “Does it hurt, Gan Gan?” asks Rose sweetly.
“Not really,” I say, crossing my fingers. “All you have to do is think of something nice.”
Rose’s face brightens. “Like those chocolate buttons you’ve got in your bag?”
No flies on this one! I should have guessed she might have spotted them! But perhaps I should admit that they are really for me!
I don’t know about you but as soon as winter approaches, I get a chocolate craving that I don’t have in the summer.
“You can have one,” I promise, “but only after lunch.”
“Please now,” she says plaintively.
Oh dear. Only yesterday, Rose had refused to wear a coat because it hid “my pretty dress”. It was actually one of those warm autumn days. So instead of having a battle, I’d given in.
“You need to make a stand,” my daughter told me when I gave her our usual end of day report.
The funny thing is that I was much stricter with my own children. But as a granny, I seem to have become more more flexible regarding rules and regulations.
So I give the children one chocolate button each and then hide the others at the bottom of my bag.
“What else have you got in there?” enquires Rose, putting her little nose inside.
I swear that child is going to be a policewoman… if she isn’t a writer or artist!
In fact, it’s a very good question. Every night, before a granny day, I pack my bag rather like I used to pack my school satchel or briefcase when I worked full time for a woman’s magazine. (In fact,
once my editor sent me to interview various celebrities about the contents of their handbags. I couldn’t possibly reveal my findings but trust me, some of them were mind-boggling!)
Now my bag includes snacks and other bribes for the grandchildren; spare underwear for us all; a purse with change for Rose’s weekly comic which costs much more than it did in my day (she buys a different one every week, depending on the freebies on the cover); my mobile phone charger (it’s one of the seven sins for a granny to be out of contact or respond to an ‘Is everyone alright’ text from the boss) and goodness knows what else. The result is that my bag weighs a ton.
On top of that, I have the children’s haversack which my daughter has packed with enough stuff that would see us through a week’s holiday.
Yet despite all this, there’s always something I need, that isn’t in it – like my house door keys. Help! I’m sure I put them in the front zippy part. But they’re nowhere to be seen.
The most likely culprit is George who is hooked on anything remotely mechanical.
“Have you got my keys?” I ask him.
He shakes his head.
“Have you?” I ask Rose, mindful of the fact that we all thought she’d swallowed a bolt the other week. Surely she couldn’t have done the same with a clump of keys?
“Of course not, Gan Gan,” she retorts with all the indignity of an almost 4-year-old.
Oh dear. Apart from the hassle factor, my keys are very special to me. They include a dog whistle which my great aunt Sue used to own. She brought up my mother when her own mother (my grandmother) died of cancer aged 41 during the Second World War.
I’ve always seen myself as the custodian of her dog whistle. Rose now loves to blow it which I think my great aunt would approve of.
“I want your whistle,” says Rose who burst into tears when I tell her that that is lost too.
So we all retrace our footsteps. It’s not the first time this has happened. I’ve mislaid the grandchildren’s shoes in the past (I’d almost rather lose my credit card because of the hassle factor involved in getting another pair that fit).
And we’ve also lost numerous gloves and hats.
But this is different. The whistle is replaceable.
Later that night, when I’m running along the seafront – something I always do at the end of a granny day to wind down – I send up a prayer to Saint Anthony, keeper of all last things. And can you believe it? It suddenly comes to me in a flash.
Last night, when I was doing a late night shop, I’d been wearing a different coat from usual. Was it possible they were still in the pocket?
I belt home. And yes, they are.
I have to admit that tears stream down my face
I know that great aunt Sue would be pleased but also perhaps a little cross that I lost them in the first place. (She didn’t take fools gladly.)
Not for the first time, I’m reminded me that family continues down the line through memories of personal possessions as well as physical similarities (Rose has inherited our traditional blue eyes on the maternal side while George’s are velvet brown like his father’s).
But perhaps one of the most important family legacies are stories. They don’t have to be big. They can see quite minor. But it all adds up to those wonderful “Remember when?” reminiscences.
I wonder what tales Rose is going to tell about our time together, 50 years from now! I’d better watch my step…
I Looked Away by Jane Corry is published by Penguin Viking. To buy, go to https://amzn.to/2Lq2rew and https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jane-Corry/I-Looked-Away/23635139