In memory….

When I was a little girl, my biggest dream was to go to Disney World. Now remember, I was a little girl loooooong before Disneyland Paris had been thought of. No I dearly wanted to go to Florida to experience the magical kingdom. A friend of mine went when I was about 9. I remember thinking, “how does she ever think about anything else, ever?” when she got back. Disney was the zenith of life experiences as far as I was concerned.

My Nanna, that is my maternal grandmother, used to play the pools every week when I was a child. And every week she told us that if she won, she would take us grandchildren to Disney World (of course there were only two of us when she started promising this – she must have been a bit nervous once it was a promise she was making to six of us!!) I truly believe she would have kept her word and I willed her on every week, sometimes choosing her numbers for her. She never won, but far from disappointment, it left me with a great memory of her.

My Nanna died in 2004. She had been incredibly ill and it had been hard to see her so frail, struggling for air as she tried to speak. She had always been this strong matriarch, quick to scold, but even quicker to cuddle. When she died, I read the bidding prayer at her funeral. I cried along with everyone else. I was sad. But then I got on with my life. It wasn’t until one drunken night in 2006, that it properly hit me that she’d gone. I cried so much and so hard Ben practically had to carry me home. She was gone and that was that.

When she died, we found out that she had left a small amount of money to each grandchild (there are six of us). I was shocked as I had no idea she had any money at all, but very touched. I then learnt that the money was in a trust that would only mature once the youngest grandchild turned 21. At the time I was 25, nearly 26. I was furious! I felt that she had snubbed me, treating us as a homogeneous lump of grandchildren, rather than individuals. And as the youngest grandchild at the time was only 12, and we had very little contact with the family now that Nanna was gone (a very loooong boring story I assure you), I fully expected never to see that money again.

What I didn’t bank on was the diligence of my second cousin John, who as an IFA, was managing the trust. This week he managed to contact us through his sister, who is friends with my sister on FB (thank goodness for social media huh!) to tell us that the trust has now matured and we are owed our inheritance. Having not thought of it for years I was completely shocked. Its not a huge amount, but as someone without an income it’s means I can do things like get a haircut and buy some boots. It’s made me very happy! It’s also made me very reflective.

I have been thinking about my childhood and my relationship with my wider family. Some memories are painful, some are awesome, but all of that adds up to be my history. Its unique and its mine. It’s made me feel sad (for the umpteenth time) that Oscar doesn’t see his grandparents as much as as I did. But mostly its forced me to apologise to my Nanna. With time (and age – come on lets not beat about the bush!) I understand things differently. I now understand, that she just wanted us all to be treated fairly and equally. Of course she saw us an individuals! She wanted each and every one of us to receive the same treatment at the same time. She was doing what was best for us.

I’m so sorry Nanna.

I wish I could tell her what she means to me and what I think of when I think of her. I think of the empty boxes she would save for me so I could play “shops”. I think of the day she let us draw all over her formica topped kitchen table with pens. I think about “my” room in her house. I think about her garden, whose path I used to run up and down and up and down, swinging myself round the washing line pole. I think about her love of massive and I mean MASSIVE hanging baskets, which she had made specially every year. I think about her stews and her mash. I think of her pinnies (half aprons) which she would always wear, made of well washed soft cotton, perfect for wiping a mucky face, or tears away. I think of her kitchen – the domain of the women, whilst the men stayed in the lounge. I think of going to Pete the greengrocer over the road with her, and being so proud that they knew her name.

I think how sad it is that she never met any of her great grandchildren and how much I know she would have loved Oscar. I don’t have enough to take him to Disney World (not yet!) but I do plan to buy him a gift from her money. Something that one day, we can take down together, and I can explain who it came from and who she was.

I think she would have liked that.

Chim, chimineeee…..

Practically Perfect in Every Way???

Practically Perfect in Every Way!

The days are getting distinctively darker and gloomier and the nights are drawing in. The children have gone back to school and even the toddler groups have started up. There’s no denying it any longer. Autumn is well and truly here.

And that’s fab! Don’t get me wrong, I love the sunshine, particularly the kind this past summer delivered. But my favourite season has to be Autumn (and December which is technically winter but hey, I’m among friends). It’s so full of purpose and there seems to be an unending list of things to do. Which I love. The fact that my birthday and Christmas also fall in this time probably helps 😉

One of my favourite things to do when it’s dark and miserable outside, is to curl up on the sofa and watch a film. But these times are not suitable for any old film and towards Christmas they will likely come from my small but quality collection of Christmas movies (Muppet’s Christmas Carol anyone?). But until then, I am a sucker for a feel good Disney movie. I’ve been trying to introduce the boy to Disney films pretty much since he was born. I even bought him some which have male protagonists, (Jungle Book and Monsters Inc) to temper my more female Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. But recently I decided it was time he was introduced to the world of Disney outside pure animation and showed him Mary Poppins.

I love Mary Poppins. I can remember the first time I ever saw it (Christmas Day, 1983) and its been a fixture in my life ever since; recorded off the telly, on the telly or (now in the 21st Century) on Netflix. I’ve been watching it practically all my life and I know all the lyrics to all the songs. I’ve been singing “Stay Awake” to soothe Oscar since he was born and now as soon as I start to sing it, he puts his head on my shoulder. I thought I knew this film.

Until I watched it the other day, with Oscar, through a mother’s eyes. I saw something in it I’d never noticed before and I’m still having trouble articulating what I saw so bare with me.

What I saw, for the first time, was not magic. What I saw, was a person, who comes into the lives of the children and provides them with the opportunity and ability to go on magical adventures using their own imagination. There was no Merry Go Round, there was no tea party on the ceiling. Rather an adult who enabled children to explore their own minds (I also saw a mother who, when she couldn’t find anyone else to look after the children when they had run away from the bank, was happy to leave them in the care of a stranger, a chimney sweep she’d never met, but that’s by the by). For the first time I saw a message to me as an adult; be the conduit through which children can explore and use their imaginations.

Was that message always there? Did I miss it before, because I had no children? Am I reading absolutely too much in to what is actually just a quaint story? Possibly. I mean, like I say I thought I knew this film upside down and back to front. Or do you take from films and books and media what I you need/want to? Probably.

But it’s made me think. Not just about the film itself and what the hell I was seeing from the first time, but about my role in Oscar’s development. When he was tiny it was all about the physical, helping him roll, crawl, walk, eat, keeping him physically safe. But now, I think, I need to turn our attention to the more internal aspects of his development. I’m not talking about ABC, 123 (although we do sing these every day!) I mean I think I need to concentrate on being that conduit, allowing him to develop that imagination. I look at his toys and I think it’s time to move away from those hand eye co-ordination, flashy light, musical thingamajigs and bring out the blocks and the hand size cars and things that make him play.

Being responsible for his physical well being suddenly seems like a doddle. Now I am responsible for encouraging something I have no control over. I can’t see what he’s imagining. I just have to go with him for the ride.

It’s funny. I always wanted to be Jane. She had such pretty dresses and got to dance on the rooftops of London. I never got to be her. But now, I get to be my own Mary Poppins. And that my friends is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!