I am sitting on her knee, sucking my thumb with my finger hooked over my nose. With my other hand, I am playing with her enormous earlobes. We’re in her sitting room, which is cluttered with knick-knacks and lace doilies and a yellow bird in a cage in the corner called Joey. He scratches and whistles.
At home, I am wearing Mum’s silk nighty and a pair of her high heels. The silk is dragging on the floor and my feet slide inside the huge shoes. I am singing along to Manfred Man’s ‘Angelo’. Nannan says, ‘Come on, our Becky. Give us a show. Sing up.’
I took some chocolate without asking from Nannan’s side table during a visit. A Yorkie bar. I have to return it and say sorry. I hated doing that. I really wanted that Yorkie bar.
I am watching Nannan knit. Her needles click as they move in her hands with lightening pace. I can’t tell what’s going on as it’s all happening too fast. Back, forward, wool under and looped around. She talks as she knits, and rarely looks at what she’s doing. I am amazed.
My grandmother, Nannan to us, died of an aggressive cancer when I was five. I started school and then she was gone. My mother has never recovered from the loss. Those are the only memories I have of the strongest woman anyone could ever meet. She was a single mother of an illegitimate child after the war, a time when single mothers were considerably more vilified than we are today.
Her American GI love, whose nickname was ‘Lucky’, sent her money to fly her and the baby to New York to live with him. She’d heard all the stories about how the soldiers were being treated back home in America, and how trailer parks were homes to many of the English girls who went to live with the American soldiers, young men who were trying to rebuild their lives after fighting. Instead of airfare, Nannan spent the money on a cot, a pram and cloth nappies, deciding that she needed to stay at home.
Lucky was apparently heartbroken. Nannan broke her own heart too, making the decision she felt was best for the baby.
But if another decision had been made, there’d have been a different Becky singing for her grandmother.