Lilia is walking around the house like a Little Lost Soul.
This is nothing at all to do with the fact that she and the rest of her family have just moved into a new home
- and everything to do with the fact that her twin, Tala, exhausted by the previous day's excitements, has taken it upon herself to have an extended nap upstairs in her cot. Lilia is lost without her.
to fear, help is near - I am ready, willing and able to entertain my youngest grandchild in her sister's absence. After all, didn't I always hanker after being a twin myself? Despite the three and a half years age difference between my Little Sister and me,
I constantly endeavoured to present myself as her twin. I vividly remember snuggling down beside her in her pram, pulling the pram blanket up to my chin and beaming at everyone who gazed in at us. It seems unlikely that anybody was taken in by my pretence
but I wasn't to know that.
The Middle of the Darling Daughters needs to go shopping for essentials such as voile curtains, a cutlery tray, a kitchen bin, rawl plugs and cable clips. She needs her sister to
accompany her because she (her sister) knows where the shops are while the M of the DDs is a New Kid on the Block. They will take The Rascal with them, they say, and there's no reason why I shouldn't come too, bearing in mind that the Trio's father will be
home, waiting in for various kitchen appliances to be delivered and lots of odd jobs to do into the bargain.
I look at Lilia, she looks at me. I decide I will stay. It will be an opportunity for perhaps an
hour of undivided attention you understand. And I don't often have the chance of someone's undivided attention, all for me.
Lilia is still in her pyjamas because we can't get into her bedroom to find her clothes
without waking up the Sleeping Beauty. Still, I put on her socks and shoes and we go out into the garden on an exploration. Lilia's father is busy putting together the slide, the playhouse and the sand and water table. He has found a convenient branch on which
to hang the family's pet canary who is singing away at the top of her voice, full of the joys of the fresh air. In the branches of an oak tree in next door's garden, goldfinches gather to ponder on this newcomer to the area.
We explore every corner of the new garden, Lilia and I. It's quite a bit bigger than the garden at her old house and it's going to represent a new kind of freedom for The Trio. At which point it starts to rain, so Lilia, her father, the canary and I
all take shelter indoors again.
We find some books to read, in one of the packing cases that has already been opened. Lilia chooses "That's Not My Puppy", followed by "That's Not My Tiger", followed by "That's
Not My Bear." I can sense a theme here. We look for the little mouse on every page and I make appropriate squeaking noises. Lilia looks at me in concern; she seems to think I may be in pain. She cups her tiny hands around my face and her big brown eyes gaze
into mine. For a long moment, we consider each other - before a deep, throaty chuckle breaks the spell.
Outside I can see the car belonging to the next door neighbour negotiating the drive. I carry Lilia to
the open window and we look out to say "hello". I always think it is a good thing to connect with your neighbours as soon as you are able. Lilia proves a past master at the Art of Neighbourliness. She bestows her most beaming smiles upon the little lass with
Angel hair who is accompanying her mother home from a shopping trip. Believe me, nobody - child or adult - can hold a candle to Lilia's beaming face. I exchange a few pleasantries with my daughter's new neighbour which mostly concern the going rates of the
Tooth Fairy these days. The Tooth Fairy, it seems, will be paying a visit next door before the day is out.
My Son In Law raises his eyes heavenwards. I am at it again, he accuses me. It's just like our holiday
last year in Alicante when I managed to acquaint myself with everybody living on the complex by the time the week was out. What is it about me? he wants to know. Am I just plain nosey or what? (He relates the whole episode to my daughter on her return which
leads to an interesting debate on who should make the first move when new neighbours arrive - should you introduce yourselves or wait for a call?)
Lilia seats herself astride a chair, takes my hands and makes
rowing actions. We sing "Row, row, row the boat" four times, followed up by a selection of my favourite nursery rhymes. The Son In Law suggests I toast a slice of garlic bread for his daughter. I'm not sure if this is because she may be hungry or because he
would rather I stopped singing and left any Future Warbling to the canary.
A lorry arrives outside, delivering the new kitchen appliances. The Darling Daughters and The Rascal arrive home about the same time.
Not long afterwards, the thud of a milk bottle being thrown out of a cot upstairs signals that Tala, the older of The Twinkles, is finally awake.
The Twins are Reunited. Lilia is pleased, indeed, to see her
sister and Companion in Crime. My services as Stand In Twin are no longer needed.
Just an Hour With Lilia. How very, very precious sixty minutes can be.