A gap gently bridged

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The poem was called "Granny fell" and told the poignant tale of the child's first realization that this monument of rocklike stability and permanence could tumble. I suspect the poem was written by the Granny in question and that to her the episode was rather comical: that the child's wail of despair that Granny could do such a thing was something of a relief. It can become a strain to be regarded as completely infallible. Once this important and necessary step has been taken, the buoyant relationship between grandchildren and grandparents becomes even more special. The child starts to care and cherish in return, finding tolerance and patience along the way. The extraordinary equality flows even more freely. The lively interaction has gentle undertones.

There are several grannies in our Poetry Society and occasionally they indulge in a poem about their grandchildren, apologizing unnecessarily. These poems are alight with a special kind of perceptive love and joy. The listener can only feel how particularly fortunate those children are to have such tenderness and vivacity near at hand. The same bright glow surrounds the little group out together, shopping maybe, or on a visit to the playground. Everyone knows it is the grandparents on an outing with the grandchildren. This nuance alighted for a moment in the post office today when a lady, collecting her pension, spotted the large red and white striped balls for sale. She leaned over. "I'll have one of those," nodding with the pleasure of anticipation. We all knew in that swift instant exactly whom it was for.

This is an active, spontaneous love that cannot be concealed. Indeed, why should it be. Here is a precious link, for the children themselves are unabashed about their feelings. This is what is so refreshing for the onlookers. The delicate pattern of deep and vigorous affection is woven by all those concerned in full view of the world's sophisticated, inhibited eyes.

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Those of us who stand in the middle, watch, a little apart, while the bridge between years is so effortlessly made. Unwittingly I consider the implications and realize how highly I rate the regular visits my daughter makes to her grandparents. It is not only the undistracted attention they devote to each other; the way they play, unconcerned by the irrelevance of age differences; the joy they feel together. There is another kind of growing going on, too.

Besides the fascination of photographs of her own mother's child-days and the mystery of aunts and uncles who were once children, the child listens, enchanted by tales of her grandmother's childhood. Those far-off times when the car was still a novelty and people travelled by horse-drawn cab and trams; when the family were collected by wagon from the station on their annual holiday to the Yorkshire dales; when nannies, cooks, laundry maids and dressmakers were a feature of many households. This commonplace history is part of her life, too. By growing with it, roots dig deeper into comprehension and the layers of growth broaden. An intimate connection with the past, made from the familiar vantage point of a comfortable lap, must enliven and enhance the continuing present.

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