“Can you come round please, Mum,” says my daughter excitedly on the phone. “We’ve got something to show you!”
All kinds of things race through mind. Another lot of lava eggs? My daughter has been very keen on nature lessons during the summer. Or maybe they’ve been painting again. Hopefully not the walls. Actually, it was their youngest uncle who used to be the culprit where that was concerned. I’ll never forget turning my back for one second – honestly – when my then five-year-old son and his friend decided to use one of my tester pots to make my kitchen bright green. Both culprits are now responsible 20-something adults. In fact, the friend is a lawyer, specialising in crime. Honestly.
Meanwhile, four-year-old Rose is waiting for me at the window…
She watches me dismount my bike and races to the door. “Hurry up,” she says ushering me in. “You’ve got to go into the sitting room and close your eyes.”
This is getting increasingly mysterious!
“I’m going upstairs for a bit so just wait there,” says my granddaughter imperiously.
What on earth is going on?
“Almost ready!” trill both my daughter and granddaughter. “You can open your eyes now!”
That’s good. I was beginning to feel a little dizzy.
Oh my goodness! Rose has aged at least two years in the last five minutes. Can this really be my little granddaughter? She is strutting around like a model on the catwalk, wearing her brand-new school uniform. And it’s clear that she loves it.
“We have a different dress for the winter,” she says solemnly. “It’s called a ‘pinner for’. Shall I go and put that on to show you?”
“Yes, please,” I nod with a big lump in my throat.
My mind is transported back thirty odd years to when her mummy started school. Her big brother was two years above and my daughter would cry every time we took him to school because she wasn’t old enough. When it was her time to start, the two of them would walk through the gates hand-in-hand.
The ‘coronavirus’ word haven’t even been invented. At least I don’t think it had.
“It’s really emotional, isn’t it?” says my daughter. There are tears in her eyes too. I give her a big hug. We both know what the other is thinking. It’s not just that Rose is entering another stage of her life. It’s also the uncertainty about children going back to school in the autumn.
“What do your friends think about it?” I ask.
“We’re all a bit worried,” she says. “But personally I believe we have to send them. They need the stimulus.”
It’s a tough call.
My grandson is tugging at my arm…
“Look at me, Gan Gan!” says George dancing about, desperate not to be outdone. He’s off to pre-school for one day a week in September. Regular readers might recall how my little grandson howled when I left him in the term before lockdown.
I would sit in my car outside nursery, in tears myself. And every time I’d be called back because he hadn’t settled.
Looking back, I can see George wasn’t ready to be left. But he is a whole eight months older and not nearly so clingy. It’s as though the “corni” virus has really made him grow up. Of course, he would have done that anyway but somehow that scary period during lockdown when I was unable to be with them every day, meant that in my eyes, both children have matured with a quantum leap.
I have to hand it to my daughter and son-in-law. They’ve done a great job, especially during this time when both have been at home. Little George’s vocabulary has vastly increased (my favourite phrase of his is “Me too please!”) Millie is writing stories with beautifully formed letters where the heroine is invariably a mermaid. And their jigsaw skills are far superior to mine!
They also sit up beautifully at the table when eating. It’s a far cry from when I used to let them sit on the sofa, munching fish fingers and then vacuuming up the tell-tale crumbs before their parents get back from work!
Back to some normality
But now, the new school uniform is teaching me another lesson. We’re all going to have to adapt to a totally different curriculum. Not just an academic one but also a mental one.
I’ve been one of the cautious ones since the easing of lockdown. I haven’t had friends round to tea in our little garden. I make sure I keep my distance in the street. Indeed, I only go into our seaside town early in the morning in order to avoid the tourists.
Yet before long, I’m going to be part of the school run along with my daughter. Part of me feels nervous about this because I’ll have to mix with a lot more people. But the other part is desperate to get back to some normality. Will I manage?
“You’ve got ages yet,” points out my husband. He’s right. There’s another three weeks of summer home time ahead. We’ve been amazingly lucky in our part of the country with the weather. Our beaches and fields mean the children can run about and use up all that energy so they’re tired for bed!
And that brings me to another development which happened this week
My way of distracting myself during the virus (apart from writing) is to swim in the sea. I usually go first thing in the morning and then late afternoon. “May I come with you?” asks my daughter at the weekend.
We have a lovely dip but then it comes to changing back into our clothes. Now I don’t know about you but I have to say that my inhibitions have decreased with each birthday! Now I’m 60-something, I’m quite happy to wriggle out of my swimmers and quickly into my dry clothes. And it doesn’t embarrass me if there’s a brief flash of naked flesh during the procedure. But my daughter is horrified!
“Mum,” gasps my daughter. “You need a beach changing robe.”
“Nonsense,” I say, with my final manoeuvre which I thought was pretty adroit actually.
She puts her head in her hands which makes me burst into giggles like a teenager. “But there’s a group of boys behind us,” she whispers.
“They’re too busy boozing to notice,” I point out. “Besides, they’re old enough to be my children. There. See. I’ve done it. All decent now!”
I thought it was children who were meant to embarrass their parents! Not the other way round! Still it made us laugh as we walk home. And it was a great distraction from the CV word.
Meanwhile, we need to work out what to do about my dad’s 97th birthday which is coming up at the end of August. In the past, he’s banned more than two visitors at a time because it makes him tired. But so far, he’s agreed that we can all come down. I’m hoping he doesn’t change his mind. Ninety seven years is a pretty big landmark.
Meanwhile, thank you so much for your lovely emails. Here’s one from Julie which I found very moving because of the courage it showed and her determination to see the positive side in life.
“I always read your diary page and love hearing about Rose and George.
“I had cancer a few years ago and had a right sided mastectomy. My eldest granddaughter was three at the time and wanted to know all about it. I bent over one day and my ‘softie’ fell out of my bra. My granddaughter put it on her head and ran round the room. Then she told the local vicar ‘chapter and verse’ about my missing hat and where it had come from!”
Children have an amazing way of looking at the world, don’t you think? They raise our spirits at a time when we need exactly that.
There it is! The doorbell. My grandchildren have popped round to play. I did ask them for lunch but apparently they had theirs at 11am because they’ve been up since 5am. (I call it GMT: Grandchildren Mean Time!)
Excuse me while I go and greet them. The last few months have shown me how important it is to make the most of each minute. Children grow up so fast! I know every generation says this but it seems even more true right now.
And when they’ve gone, I’m going to order that changing robe to save my daughter’s blushes!
Jane Corry is the author of the bestselling I Made A Mistake about a daughter-in-law and her much-loved mother-in-law. Published by Penguin, £6.99 in paperback and also available as an e-book and audio, narrated by Emilia Fox. http://bit.ly/IMadeaMistake OR https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jane-Corry/I-Made-a-Mistake/24376830