Can you believe this is the one hundredth instalment of Diary of A Modern Gran? And we’re not stopping there! Every Tuesday author Jane Corry will be back, sharing her precious family moments and giving us some much needed advice and support in a year that has had many highs and lows! This week, Jane makes a discovery under the sofa, and writes a poignant poem…
Oh dear. We’ve lost a snake. Or rather George has.
My two-year-old grandson is particular attached to Sid. Grampy (my daughter’s father) gave it to him and it now goes everywhere, clasped in George’s warm little hand.
Before you get too alarmed, Sid is of the rubber variety. But he still looks scarily realistic.
“Are you sure George didn’t leave it at your place?” asks my daughter.
Absolutely. My husband and I have done a thorough sweep and there is nothing to be seen.
Meanwhile, I’m feeling rather guilty about hijacking a family day. My daughter, understandably, has been making the most of the last week before George starts nursery and Rose begins full-time school. This feels like a particular wrench since they’ve all been at home together since March for obvious reasons.
“We thought we’d go to the zoo,” she says referring to a charitable institution near us which specialises in small animals.
“Oh!” I say. “May I come too? Please!”
“Of course,” she says kindly. Then I realise that I have a physio appointment halfway through the afternoon to get back to. This means coming back earlier from the day trip. “That’s fine, mum,” says my daughter. I really appreciate that. I hope I’m not being selfish but the older I get, the more I treasure every moment with my little ones. And that includes the grown-up children too! I’m also aware that full days out with “my babies” will be fewer and further between when they’re in the classroom.
“Do you think we will see a giraffe?” pipes up Rose from the back of the car.
“I want to see a dragon,” says George.
“It’s not that kind of zoo,” explains my daughter. “But I’m sure you’ll love it.”
I feel a rising sense of excitement myself. It’s so lovely to do some normal things!
“Put your mask on Gan Gan,” instructs Rose as we get out of the car.
Actually, I’m already doing so. But it seems we only need them for the indoor areas.
Most of it is out of doors. Ahead of us is another family group. We’re all being very careful to socially distance so we have to wait our turn while the animals are being fed. “I wonder if we could feed you like that?” says the dad in front as his little boys watch the zookeeper lob the food over the fence.
“I thought you already did that,” jokes the granny in the group. At least, I think she is a granny. It’s not always easy nowadays to see who is the mum and who is the gran. (I’ve made some real howlers about that in the past!)
“Look at that tiny monkey,” whispers my granddaughter in awe.
Sometimes I think that the magic on children’s faces should be dished out on prescription. They cheer you up even when you’re feeling anxious about the world.
At the end, comes the gift shop – the biggest attraction of all! (If my husband was here, he’d have headed there first!) George’s eyes light up. “They DO have dragons,” he says delightedly, pointing to a plastic feisty red one.
“Please don’t buy them anything, Mum,” says my daughter. “You’ve done enough for them enough already.”
Too late. Rose has her eye on a pretty patterned frog. Besides, what’s the point of being a gran if you can’t spoil them. (Even if I still haven’t got my pension yet.)
They hug Freddie the frog and Denis the dragon all the way home.
“So where are we going tomorrow?” I ask hopefully.
“How about the miniature village?” suggests my daughter.
Yes. Yes! I turn round in the car to do a high five with Rose and George. I don’t know about you, but miniature villages were really special in my childhood. I’ll never forget going to Bekonscot with my sister which wasn’t far from our home. How well I remember I making up stories about people who lived in those little houses.
When we get there, I discovered that my grandchildren do exactly the same. “I wonder who’s looking through that window?” muses Rose.
“A dragon?” suggests George hopefully, clutching Denis tightly.
I have to say, everything is beautifully built. There’s even a little train that runs through plus the cricket ground, manicured lawns with miniscule people sunbathing, a village church and a helicopter pad – to name but a few! I could stay here all day.
Normally, I would be writing but I’ve got another two weeks off until the next stage of my new novel which comes out next year. Part of me feels as though I’m playing hooky. “Shall we have an ice cream?” I suggest when we get to the exit.
There’s a chorus of “Yes please”!
“We won’t be able to do this so often when they go to school,” says my daughter.
There are tears in her eyes. “You’ll all be fine when you get into the swing of things,” I say, reaching out to squeeze her hand in comfort. Whoops. I haven’t put on any “anti bac” after touching a railing. So out comes a bottle and we cleanse ourselves thoroughly.
Who would have thought a year ago that life would be like this? No. We mustn’t go down that way of thinking. This is a fun day out.
“Did you have a good time?” asks my husband when I return. Lovely! I miss them already. The strange thing is that when I’m with my grandchildren full time, I’m absolutely exhausted. But when I’m not with them, it feels like there’s a hole in my heart.
So I decide to give the house a good clear out. I discover some books which I used to have as a child and have been saving until Rose and George get a bit older. I think they’re ready now. There is one on how to tell the time which my father had given my eldest many years ago. I also come across a child’s book of prayers which was one of my favourites. It still has my name written in my shaky four-year-old writing in the front.
There’s something really special about sharing your books with the next generation, isn’t there? It’s heart-warming to know that stories you enjoyed can still be treasured by future generations.
Just one more room to tidy up now…
“What’s that?” I squeal pointing to a long thin brown shape underneath the sofa. Our dear old dog is getting on. Please don’t say he’s done a you-know-what.
I put on one of my plastic gloves which I bought at the beginning of the virus. Bending down, I hold my breath. Gingerly I pick it up. It feels rubbery! Then I realise. It’s the missing snake.
“Are you alright?” asks my husband, hearing me cry out.
I’m laughing now. “Look what I’ve found!”
I text a picture to my daughter. “You were right! It was at our place.”
“Gan Gan’s found my snake!” George’s whoops are loud and clear. “Can I have him please?”
So I put Sid in my bicycle basket and cycle over. Naturally he receives a hero’s welcome!
But two days later, I get a call. “Guess what,” says my daughter. “We went out for the day today and lost Denis somewhere.”
So now, even as I write, they are driving back to the zoo gift shop for a replacement. “We’re going to buy two,” chirps Rose. “Just in case.”
Good thinking. That girl will go far.
Meanwhile, have you got any lost and found stories about favourite toys? I’d love to hear about them. Please email me at email@example.com.
PS The future can seem all too daunting if we try to look too far ahead. This doesn’t just apply to the virus. It’s also the same when it comes to children starting school.
So yesterday, I sat down and wrote my daughter a poem. She’s given me permission to share it with you.
FOR MY DAUGHTER – AND ALL PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS AND CARERS ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
Tomorrow is a milestone
Their very first day at school.
I know you’re feeling jittery –
It’s hard to keep your cool!
You’re worried they’ll be lonely
If no one asks them to play.
And what about teacher’s questions?
Will they know just what to say?
Supposing they take a tumble
And graze a knee or two.
Someone will surely pick them up.
But that someone won’t be you….
What if they get tired or fractious?
Supposing they cry out for you.
And then there’s mathematics –
They might not have a clue…
But stop! For these are just your fears
And those of others through the years.
All parents and carers feel upset
When little ones take that first step.
Of course the virus adds extra strain
But it’s good for them to see friends again.
You too will smile and begin to relax –
It’s not just children who’ll absorb the facts.
You’ll learn how your little ones blossom and grow.
For that small seed which you did sew
Will soon become as tall as you.
Sounds impossible but it’s true!
With any luck, they’ll make friends for ever.
They’ll discover you don’t always need to be clever.
More important are lessons on being true and kind
And how to keep a balanced mind.
One day they’ll stand at the school gate,
Their hearts in mouths as they shuffle and wait.
And perhaps they’ll remember their own first day
When you held their hand to show them the way.
I know all this because I’ve been there.
I cried when I brushed your lovely hair
And sent you to school with a tremor in my heart.
It felt like the end but it was a new start.
And now as I look at my lovely grown up girl
I marvel at how you have truly unfurled
Into a kind and loving mummy.
To think that you were once in my tummy!
I am so very proud of you.
And I want you to know that whatever you do.
I am there for you all, just as you will be
When you, too, become a loving gran-ee!
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, £7.99 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