It was a few days after the Big Day according to the calendar - but, as I always say, why have one birthday celebration when you could have two?
Granddaughter Eleanor was not about to disagree, especially as this was a special birthday. You are only 21 once, don’t you know? “I’ve got the key of the door / Never been twenty-one before!” that’s how the song goes,
though ever since the age of majority was reduced from twenty-one to eighteen, it’s not been quite the landmark birthday it used to be, which is a shame in my (admittedly humble) opinion.
I still remember that until I was 21, I wasn’t even allowed to join the library without an adult’s confirmation that I could be trusted to treat books with respect and return them in time. That meant that, despite
the fact that by that age I was already the mother of two children, Mr B still had to stand referee for me…I told this story to Eleanor and her sister Katie when they arrived with their parents for the Belated Birthday Celebration yesterday - I could
see they thought it was another of my Tall Tales.
The weather was bright, if windy, so we were all able to sit in the Room Outdoors which I had managed to
turn into a Party Room with the help of two sets of bunting, a 21st birthday banner and fifteen pink balloons. As party decorations go, it was not too shabby, though I say so myself as shouldn’t. Pride, I should have realised, always comes before
We are sitting at the garden table quaffing Prosecco (as you do) when the 21st birthday banner, unable to withstand the stiff breeze, splits into
two halves - one half reads “Happy 21st” while the other half says “Birthday . I rummage about in the sideboard drawer to find a stapler and my daughter (Eldest of the Darling Daughters and mother to the Birthday Girl) carefully staples it
back together again. Honestly, you couldn’t see the join.
Ten minutes later we are onto the main business of watching Eleanor open her birthday presents
from her Grandad and me. My Embattled Banner splits again, in another place altogether. Out comes the stapler once more; my daughter plays Mrs Fix-It for the second time. I worry that the stapler may run out of staples, being unsure where I would lay my hands
on any more.
Time for our picnic lunch, we all declare. Our visitors have brought their own food while I have two plates of already prepared sandwiches (hard-boiled
egg for me, cheese and onion for Mr B) in the kitchen. We have hardly started munching our way through them when yes, you are there before me, the banner starts falling apart again. Not to worry, the Eldest of the Darling Daughters is there in a twinkling,
stapler at the ready. I am reminded of how her own daughter, then aged about six, once told me: “Mummy never gives up!” I have always thought that one of the loveliest compliments a child could pay her mother.
One of my presents for Eleanor is the Grandmother’s Book which I have been working on for the best part of a year. It’s been a Labour of Love, containing as it does a record of my life,
that of my parents and grandparents, complete with old black and white photographs, the oldest dating back to the wedding of my maternal grandparents in 1909. One whole section is dedicated to “Your Parent, My Child” which contained lots of questions
I had to refer to the child in question. Another is entitled “Grandma’s Wisdom” - which was more than a little challenging because the more I thought about it, the less wise I felt. I have now completed no fewer than four such books, one
for each of the older grandchildren as they reached the Great Age of 21. As usual, I have created a Rod for My Own Back, with another six of the Tremendous Ten busily chalking up the years. By the time Twins Tala and Lilia reach 21, I will be nearly 90 if
I am fortunate enough to live that long. Maybe I should start on the remaining six books now?
Driving rain had us beating a hasty retreat indoors for the Cake
Ceremony. I’d bought those sparkler candles which didn’t require blowing out in these Covid-conscious times - trouble was that the number 2 had fizzled out before I’d managed to light the number one so we had to resort to common and garden
candles to decorate the cake and accompany our tuneful singing of Happy Birthday. Eleanor improvised by waving the programme from my recent theatre trip to see South Pacific to extinguish the candles. When did she get to be so, well, clever?
Such a lovely afternoon we had, celebrating a special birthday for a special person. I felt full up with happiness standing on the pavement outside our house to wave the family goodbye
as they set off for an evening at the races. (“Would you even be my Nanni if you didn’t wave me goodbye?” as the Birthday Girl once told me.)
for the Embattled Banner - well, I left it to its own devices….