“Why do we wear poppies?” asks my four-year-old granddaughter.
“To remember people who died in the wars,” I reply.
She fingers the little red flower with its plastic green stalk, which I’ve kept from last year. There haven’t been any poppy sellers on the streets this year for obvious reasons.
“Why did they die?” she asks.
Oh dear. Children do ask tricky questions don’t they? “Because some people disagreed with each other,” I say carefully.
“Was the world poorly then like it is now?” she asks, her little head on one side questioningly.
“Yes,” I say. “But it got better just as our world will get better too.”
“OK,” she says cheerfully. “Can we do some painting now?”
It strikes me as we open the drawer in our kitchen which has all the children’s craft bits inside, that every generation has its worries. Of course, I’ve always been aware of this but being a grandmother seems to have brought this even more sharply into focus.
Just as I want to reassure little Rose and George about these strange times, I can’t avoid the truth. My mother used to tell us stories about growing up in the war and rescuing her little brother from a doodlebug bomb. I wonder what my grandchildren will remember about the virus when they are parents and grandparents themselves?
Maybe it will be masks. “You’ve got a different one on today, Gan Gan!” Rose says on Tuesday when I pick her up from school.
I have! In fact, I’ve started to wear mine as soon as I go out of the front door and not just when I’m in an enclosed space.
To be honest, I’d be happier if the children wore them too. My husband bought them each a Spiderman and flowery one respectively but they’re in the dressing up box. I know we’ve been told it’s not necessary but surely it’s better to be over-cautious. What do you think?
“So,” I say. “What did you do at school today?”
We’re standing still as we talk because we’re waiting for the granny in front to move onto the next flower. I think I mentioned before that the staff have drawn socially-distanced daisies on the pavement outside school so we’re appropriately spaced.
“We did the ‘u’ word,” she says.
“Like ‘u’ for umbrella?” I suggest.
I have to say that I find this phonics business very hard to get my tongue round. The worst one for me is ‘p’. Apparently you’re meant to say it as though you’re blowing out a candle. Mine sounds as though I’m blowing out a whole birthday cake which is probably quite relevant since next week I have a significant birthday coming up!
Why is it that when you get to a certain age, around forty or so, you want to be younger? But when you’re little, you dream of being older!
Actually, I rather like being the age I am…
It allows me to be a granny and also do some crazy things like still swimming in the sea in November!
Anyway, back to the ‘u’ sound. Rose and I try looking for some as we drive back to her place. (Thank goodness I’m still allowed to help with childcare while my daughter works.)
“What about ‘under’”, she says as we pass our house en route.
“That’s a good one but under what?”
“There’s an Amazon parcel under your porch.”
So there is!
“Can we stop?” she pleads. “I love opening parcels.”
“It might be a surprise,” I say, thinking of the various Christmas presents I ordered online just before the new lockdown. I didn’t want to get caught short. Rose has her heart set on a toy ice cream truck which one of her Welsh cousins has. And George isn’t fussy so long as it’s a tractor or dinosaur.
When I get back, I discover that the parcel actually contains 100 disposable masks. “We’ve already got several,” points out my husband.
“The children need them too,” I point out, talking about my own three. In fact, I’ve been trying to get my eldest son (who is staying with us until he can return to his job in Spain) to change his mask more frequently. It’s almost like going back to the boys’ teenage days when I had to nag them about underpants!
Meanwhile, where is that ice cream truck?
It should have been here by now.
“Did you click on deliver or collect?” asks my daughter when I ring for advice.
I thought it was ‘deliver’ but when I check my order details, I see it’s ‘collect’. Oh dear. I can’t help feeling nervous about going into big shops even if they do have a good social distancing symptom. Do you feel like that?
But there’s another problem.
“They should have sent you an email to say when it’s ready,” points out my daughter who is an expert at this sort of thing.
“I don’t think they have,” I say.
So I do a search. Oh oh. I must have missed it. According to this, it arrived two days ago and there’s a clause at the bottom that says “if the item’ isn’t collected in 48 hours, it will be returned to the warehouse”. By now it’s dark and the shop is shutting in twenty minutes. It will take me at least 50 minutes to drive there.
Help! It took me ages to find my granddaughter’s ice cream van. They are clearly very popular. She’ll be so upset if I have lost the last one.
I try to ring the store but it puts me through to a central hub and a list of options which feels as long as Santa’s list. Eventually I get through to a real person and explain the problem.
“I’ll ring the shop and see what I can do,” says a man kindly. “But I’m afraid I can’t promise anything.”
I am on edge all night. “It’s only a toy,” says my husband after I’ve tossed and turned into the small hours.
“I know,” I say. “But I don’t want Rose to be disappointed.”
There’s also a part of me that wants this Christmas to be extra special – especially as we don’t even know if the rules will allow us to all be together.
Phew! It’s still there!
What a relief. I want to hug that nice customer service man so if he’s reading this, thank you!
“It better have real ice cream with it, after all this,” jokes my husband.
“Of course it doesn’t,” I say, lugging the box upstairs so Rose doesn’t spot it when she comes round. “You have to use your imagination.”
Talking of imagination, I’ve just found something wonderful to keep the children amused during lockdown. It’s called “air clay”. You can use it to make shapes and figures – or whatever you want – and it just dries in the air.
I was told about it by another gran during the first lockdown. I’m ashamed to say that I ordered some then but didn’t get round to using it. But today, I hauled it out of the garden shed (mine weighs a ton but you can get it in smaller quantities).
“Look,” I say to Rose and George. “We can make coil pots!”
My grandson wrinkles his nose. “What are they?”
“You roll sausage shapes into a circle and then put on another layer and another to build the walls of a little pot,” I say enthusiastically. It’s the only thing I remember from pottery classes at school.
“Can I help?” asks my 36-year-old son.
“Yes please,” says Rose. “You can be in my team.”
“Ours is going to be the best!” says her uncle.
“It’s not a race,” says George disapprovingly.
“Oh yes it is!”
Honestly, I don’t know where the time went. It kept them amused for nearly an hour. And I have to say that their pots looked a lot better than mine did when I was at school.
Just check it out on the internet. Air clay could also make a great lockdown gift to send to grandchildren.
Later that day, I receive an email from someone I used to work with. She’s widowed now and is missing her son and his young family who live in Japan. “We talk on Facetime but my granddaughter is only two. I’m worried that she doesn’t know who I am. I’ve been saving up for a trip out there but with the virus, who knows when I’ll able able to travel.”
Quite a few of you have written in with the same concern. But one reader – thank you, Betty from Kent! – has started writing her life story for her grandchildren in Australia. She’s also illustrated it with photographs. “I email it in weekly instalments,” she says. “It gives me a project and they seem to love it.”
What a great idea!
Do keep sending me your stories about being a grandparent. I’d also like to know what you remember about your own grandparents. My maternal grandmother lived with us until I was 12 and then we moved round the corner from her. I was always popping in and out of her home – especially when I was a teenager and had the odd disagreement with my parents! We love stories at My Weekly and it can help to take a trip down Memory Lane every now and then. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with GRANNY COLUMN in the subject heading.
See you next week!
Jane Corry is the author of five top ten best-sellers. Her latest novel I Made A Mistake is about Betty, a grandmother who lives with her son’s family. 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