|grinding cocoa before shaking the pineapple tree|
We were never one of those families who had grandparents and aunties and uncles regularly popping by. In my infant days I spent time with my Grenada grandparents, who were in London when I was born but I was too young for these memories to remain. Into my toddler years I certainly remember hazy, lazy days with a wonderful great-aunt who's daughters became my surrogate sisters; but that too came to an abrupt end.
We became a nucleus. A fortress of four that occasionally journeyed from suburbia into the city walls of London to visit our Caribbean extended families; as the years passed, the gaps between visits grew wider.
The GeordieLad's experience is not the same. He comes from a family that were used to each other's living rooms, Sunday dinners and Christmases. The love, laughs, support and birthday money that he had taken for granted was extended to me well before our wedding bells; his family circle widened to include me from day one. So when we became parents I planned to ensure that our girls saw all extensions of our family more often than at the obligatory weddings, christenings and funerals. And they do. We all do the best we can.
However, my Grenada grandparents cannot be part of this, returning back to their homeland in the 70s we exist in each other's lives through faded photos and fortunately, the rare visit. Now great-grandparents, we took the opportunity to take our babies during my maternity leaves but they were so very young that it was unlikely they would remember them at all.
So last year's summer holiday at my Dad's Grenada home was invaluable. They were now of an age where they could interact with their Great-Grandparents - it was an opportunity we could not afford to waste. Despite my Grandfather being invalid and quite poorly, the girls were respectful of his unpredictable behaviour and made sure they chatted to him about their adventures, even though he would often not respond. They knew he was listening and the morning we spent manoeuvring him down to the beach will be a lasting moment for us all.
And as for my Grandma. Well, depending on which branch you sit on the family tree denotes the relationship you have with her. I do pretty well, thanks very much. The girls, do even better. We'll not mention how my Dad gets on. She might have talked in riddles and roundabouts that made them look to me for interpretations (which I would respond to with a 'yes Grandma' until they got the idea) but she taught them how to roll grind cocoa and churn ice-cream on her birthday. She showed them how anything can be stored in a freezer and took them on a photographic journey of her life in 1960s London. She also made them laugh with her sayings and gave them nicknames that would have prompted tears had I thought of them.
Saying goodbye to my Grenada grandparents was one of the hardest things my girls have ever seen me do. They don't like to see me cry. It's unlikely we'll be back there anytime soon. Yet I'm certain the girls understood that just because you don't see someone everyday or even every year, it doesn't make your love for them any less.