I keep meaning to bring this blog back to comedy, but I also keep meaning to bring my life back to ‘normal’ – neither seems to be playing ball. The grief gets in the way of everything, it seems.
When I was very small, around 4 or 5 I’d say, I went shopping with my mum to Pearson’s department store in Enfield and I got lost. I remember the feeling of looking up and her not being there, and the feeling of blind panic. I was also a charming, attention-seeking little bugger (surprise!) and I quickly turned this into an adventure.
I knew to approach a member of staff, and I decided to produce my finest acting skills. This was a chance to practice for my future career. I was DEFINITELY going to be an ‘actress’, (as we called them in those days before we discovered that women can be actors too) so this was an opportunity to give my finest ‘adult’. I was going to be calm, sophisticated and grown-up and I was all set to speak with this shop assistant accordingly. She probably wouldn’t even notice that I was a lost little girl.
I remember it so clearly.: “Excuse me madam, I seem to have lost my mummy. She was here with me just a few minutes ago, but I think she must have wandered off”
She was completely charmed. I was NAILING this performance.
“What does your mummy look like?”
“Well, she’s middle-aged, she has a brown curly perm and is wearing a cream dress with oak leaves and acorns on it. It has a green shiny belt too”. (I still remember everything about that dress – the cut, the material, how it felt when you sat on its lap for a cuddle…)
The assistant laughed and called her friend. “This is so cute, Carol. She’s lost her mum and she’s just described her as ‘middle aged’ – precious!”
That was a weird comment. Of COURSE she was middle aged! She had a curly perm! She wore a dress! She was about 42! What was so funny about that? That’s how any adult would describe her!
They put an announcement out on the tannoy.
“There’s a lost little girl looking for her mum. Could Mrs Eyre please come to the first floor sales desk and collect her?”
This memory came crashing into my grief in the middle of the night a few days ago. As I lay in my middle-aged bed with my middle-aged husband gently snoring beside me, I realised that 50 years later, not much has changed. I’m still failing at pretending to be a calm, sophisticated grown-up and I’m still a little girl, trying to be brave because she’s lost her mummy.