By the time I was born
She’d already lived through two World Wars
And had false teeth and grey hair
I saw her often and ate a mountain of her blackcurrant jelly and coconut pyramids
But it took many years before I really got to know her

My granddad was a centre of attention kind of guy
And she was like a bit part player, bringing in the tea from the kitchen.
After he died she lived alone on the ground floor of the house they’d rented
In north London, near the old Arsenal football ground
The rest of the house was let to lodgers.

I was playing in a band and Holly, the drummer who was from LA
Needed somewhere to store her kit, so I asked my nan.
She didn’t mind, she said she wasn’t using the living room anyway…
Nor did she mind if we turned up around midnight to drop it off.
She was always ready with tea and biscuits and we’d sit and chat with her.
This was nearly half a century ago and Holly, a long time back in LA still remembers it
Apparently she really enjoyed the sitting and chatting with my nan.

I guess I’d taken her for granted,
And I was quite surprised to hear that in her eighties
She was a woman who had fears but also still had dreams.
She loved what me and Holly were doing and
Wanted to hear all the stories we had to tell, well maybe not all of them.

A bit late in the day I know, but for me she’d suddenly become a real person.
And I was sorry I hadn’t found her earlier.
I was sure she had a lot more to say and now we were running out of time.

She told me a story often repeated in her family
Of how angry her mother was with her father who was drunk
When he registered her birth and got her name wrong.
So a few years later, when my daughter was born,
I took my nan’s intended name and gave it to her.
Seemed like it was the best I could do.

Jackie Parsons

Back to the International Women’s Day 2023 collection

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