I always loved your name, Lilian Rosena, it was so pretty, fit for a princess I’m sure. Of course most people called you Lil, which you were happy about.
Last week it would have been your birthday, 106, now that would have been a ripe old age don’t you think? This week it’s been twenty years since you left us, you had to get that one last birthday in didn’t you. I can’t believe it’s been so long already, I know you were ready to go though, you even passed with a smile on your face.
You and my mum were very close you would see each other almost every day. I thought this was great, I loved you and it meant I also got to see my cousins a lot. Not having siblings my age it was brilliant having cousins to play with. And as a parent of eight children there were plenty of cousins for me to play with.
I remember your house so well, it was tiny and always full of people. It’s hard to believe that you brought up eight children in that small semi. I still remember the painting on the landing, it was of a weeping boy in blue, you used to sing ‘little Boy Blue, come blow your horn’ whenever we passed it. I think you knew it made me feel sad.
Your back garden was huge, or did it just feel that way because it I was so small? I remember you always telling us not to touch your mangle, but how could we resist, it had wooden reels and a big metal handle to turn them, to squeeze all the water out of your hand washed clothes before hanging them on the line. I think we all got our fingers caught in that contraption at some point.
Your front garden was steep with many steps down. It had a small bar at the top of the garden and I remember standing looking down one day. I don’t remember what happened next but apparently, I ended up half way down the garden flat on my face. Someone said my cousin pushed me, but the adults said I was more than likely to have tripped as I was always clumsy. Anyway, mum teased me by singing “Two Lovely Black Eyes, Oh What a surprise!” (I had to check, and yes it is an actual song by Charles Coborn.) I had broken my nose!
You would keep us all in check with stories of ‘Old Green Eyes.’ I’m not sure who this was, or if there was anyone, but we soon learned that we had to behave or ‘Old Green Eyes’ would get us for sure. We rarely did anything to cross you anyway.
Doing my maths it would make you in your late 50s early 60s at the time when I was small, but you were so fit and spritely, alway on the go and my little legs always seemed to be running to catch up with you. You didn’t have your own teeth, most people didn’t in those days, two wars and rationing had taken its toll and it wasn’t true about coal being good for cleaning teeth. I loved it when you used to take out your teeth and pull faces at me. ‘Do it again, nanny, do it again!’ You never tired of making me laugh. Once we were waiting at a pedestrian crossing on a busy road and you turned to me with your ‘gurning’ face, right there in the street. I laughed so much.
In the summer you would say to me and my cousins, go over Quinnies field and fetch me some apples. Scrumping we called it, we didn’t actually realise it was wrong, that we were stealing. We thought only of the prize. When we got back with our hoard we’d wash the apples while you boiled up the golden syrup and best butter. Then you would make the most amazing toffee apples and we could take the spare ones around the neighbours and sell them for halfpenny each.
Just before Christmas you would take over the kitchen with your pastry making, your mince pies were the best ever and you would teach us grandkids all your secrets. We’d have so many mince pies every year, but no-one seemed to mind, we couldn’t get enough of them.
I did get into trouble with you once. I’d been sent to the shop with my cousin to fetch some beetroot. The money was always wrapped up in a piece of paper which we had to hand to the shopkeeper. On the way home we had decided to stop at the playground for a ride on the roundabout. I was holding the change, wrapped back up in the paper, and the jar of beetroot. The roundabout went a little too fast and I dropped the jar, and the paper. I was so upset that I didn’t even pick up the change and came home to tell you what I’d done. You were so angry with me and I remember you marching me back to the playground to find your change. I noticed you also cleaned up the glass so no other child got hurt. I only have this one memory, so I hope it was the only time I made you angry with me.
As time went by and I grew up, got married and had kids of my own, it was still a pleasure to bring them to visit you. When things went wrong with my ex husband I would come and sit and talk to you about it. I know Grandad hadn’t been around for a long time and you told me why. It is such a sad and personal story that I don’t feel right sharing it, but I was always amazed at your feelings for him. I know you cried when you heard he had died, even though you had not seen him for so long. You did an amazing job bringing up eight children by yourself nan, it couldn’t have been easy, especially back then.
If there is a place that you are re-united with loved ones after passing, then nan, I can’t wait to see you again. I love you and miss you every day.
Sleep tight Lilian Rosena,
from your little Fanny Fanackapants xx