I have been so fortunate with grandparents. When I was growing up, weekends meant time with Nanny and Granddad, either set, and often we had sleepovers during the week as well. I loved to feed the fish, collect the frogs, help to prepare a roast dinner and bake a cake for afters, and the many trips to the park that we would take to fill a spare gap in the day. We played board games – Frustration and Connect 4 were popular – fed the ducks so often that they came to recognise us, and had many in-jokes and games.
My grandparents – both sets – introduced us to caravan holidays, to British seasides in the summer, to the 99 flake. On one such trip my Nanny Noo taught me how to pee discretely through the slats of a bench, on another she slipped down a sand dune and broke her hip (we were the sort of feral children who found this hilarious rather than frightening but don’t worry, we learned empathy eventually).
My Granddad Terry – ‘Daddoo Fish’ – built us a dolls’ house with working electricity and was so proud to unveil it one Christmas, already set up and ready to be played with in one of my parents’ spare rooms. He hated dogs until we got one and then he would kidnap Rebel on every opportunity to take him on long walks around the local commons, finishing up in the pub. His wife, Nanny Fish, was popular with my schoolfriends for her habit of baking apple pies, which she would send in with me to school. I didn’t go to school very often as a child and I felt sometimes that my friends resented me for it, but those pies were a tremendous ice-breaker. She used to buy me clothes with cows on them, a smirky reference to my tendency toward tricky behaviour, and still laughs that my childhood name for her was Wicked Medusa, shortened to Old Wicked, before my parents decided to influence the change toward nicknaming her after the fish pond in her garden.
Granddad John had hands like shovels but was so gentle with them. He had a garden that he nurtured but never objected to two naughty little girls raiding the greenhouse and eating everything in sight! He’s had to pare down the gardening commitments a little now that he is over eighty but he talks proudly about his greenhouse whenever we see him. He doesn’t live very close by and it’s tricky to get over to see him with two toddlers and a dog on public transport but he still has the car and drove over to see us last weekend.
My little boys have two great-grandparents on my side, my Nanny Fish – still an oxymoron of sharp-tongued warmth – and Granddad John, my mother’s mother and my father’s father. On Kirsty’s side they have Granddad Len, the tallest cuddle in the house with the best drawers in his room. He is a whizz at peekaboo and has his own nickname for them, the ‘happy hippies’ on account of their long hair – forgetting, somehow, that he had a ponytail of his own in his youth! Our children are spoilt for love and contact with the older generation, each with so much to share with them.
I’m conscious that they won’t be around forever, that they are not only lucky but in the minority to have so many great-grandparents who are available to them and adore them. I’ve set myself a challenge to document their relationships with our little people as they grow and evolve, to record the moments that they share now and the games that I hope that they will share in the future – the parties, the park trips, the experiences that I remember so vividly from my own youth and am excited for my children to know as well.
When Granddad John came over we took some pictures and Kirsty made a little video. I know that we will treasure them – I hope that you like them too.
Do your children have great-grandparents? Does it give you that half happy, half wistful feeling too?