Twenty-one years ago, I became a grandmother for the first time and the Eldest of the Darling Daughters gave me a present.
to be accurate she gave me two presents, the most precious being a beautiful granddaughter who would grow over the years into a wonderful young woman of whom we, her parents and grandparents can be very proud. The other present was a Grandparents Book in which
I was invited, page after page, to enter my memories of my childhood, my marriage, our children’s family life and so on, right up to date.
off, oh so well. I composed a poem which I carefully wrote out on the first page of the book, explaining that this book would be my gift to my new granddaughter, representing a sense of family and continuity, stretching back to the past and into the future.
It would be for Katie and her daughter - and her daughter’s daughter. Yes, I was full of flights of fancy then, as now. It’s in my make-up for better or worse.
Full of such fancies, I completed the first few pages, even attaching a few charming photographs including four school photos of my young self aged five, six, seven and eight. As is always the way with school photos, each one had attracted some complaint
from my dear mum about my messy hair / undone cardigan buttons / vest ties showing above the neck of my school dress. Like most five, six, seven and eight year olds, I clearly never thought to check such details before facing the camera.
After that initial spurt, I set the book aside and concentrated on the delights of grandmotherhood as one grandchild followed another until, without it has to be said any effort at
all on my part, I had totted up a Tremendous Ten grandchildren. Five boys and five girls - the perfect balance - now ranging from three to twenty-one. Ah, lucky, lucky me!
Then, just about three weeks ago I happened across that Grandparents Book while trying to weed out books on my overcrowded book-shelves which I would never read again and so could / should be taken to the charity shop. It
just kind of tumbled out, accusingly. Had you forgotten all about me? it seemed to be saying. Followed by the question: What are you going to do with me now?
re-read my poem and remembered my resolution, twenty-one years ago. If I were ever to complete this book, then it had to be now. It had to be completed in time to give it as a present to my Katie on her 21st Birthday. I had given myself a deadline.
I did write about this Mystery Project in a previous blog but I couldn’t explain exactly what it was, or who was its intended recipient. I told you, did I not, about
the photograph albums strewn on the bed in the front bedroom? And the boxes upon boxes of loose photos through which I had to rummage.
Some of the page headings
were a real challenge. One, for example, was “The War Years” - of which, being born after the Second World War, I was a trifle short on memories. I bluffed my way through by talking about rationing not ending until I was 7 (all those sweets I missed
out on!) and telling the story of how my Dad, serving in the desert with the Eighth Army used to tell my Mum to look out at the moon every night - because it was the same moon he would be gazing on.
I needed help from the Eldest of the Darling Daughters on some of the questions posed because I couldn’t remember where she and Katie’s father went in their honeymoon, or what Katie wore on her first birthday.
I think my daughter was well pleased when I completed the book and stopped plaguing her with questions.
My only regret was that there was only one page for memories
of the times we had shared, my granddaughter and I. There was so much more I could have said. Hopefully she will remember for herself and be able to share the fun details with any grandchild she may have in the future. Possibly by completing a Grandparents
Book. Or, possibly, not.
I completed my self-inflicted task with two days to spare. I presented the book to my Katie with some trepidation - but I needn’t
have worried. She spent the whole afternoon in our sunny back garden, reading every single page. I think she realised it was a labour of love, with the emphasis (all those pages, all those photographs!) on the word “labour.”
And an even greater emphasis on the word “love”...