Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write a Coming OF AGE short story (11/20/14)
TITLE: A Short Span of Innocence
By Danielle King
LEAVE COMMENT ON ARTICLE
SEND A PRIVATE COMMENT
ADD TO MY FAVORITES
I held Daddy’s hand tight. I wanted to know why Grandma cried, but couldn’t formulate the words. Instead I focused on the rosebud soaking up overspill on the bosom of her floral frock.
Grandma cried because she loved me, Daddy said. I knew Daddy loved me because always, as we walked home, he would scoop me up onto his shoulders and jog across the Chantry Bridge. The fizzing and frothing, fast flowing river was visible through gaps in the structure beneath his feet. I squeaked and squealed with a delicious jumble of delight and sheer terror.
But Grandma never held me. Grandma never moved. She was a bit scary with her droopy eye, the one that cried.
Grandma died in 1950 and in the mysterious adult world, no-one cried, so I did, though I wasn’t sure why.
Daddy told me he wasn’t sad because it was a blessing that she died, and Mam assured me she’d be back soon. I was three years old and very trusting of my parents.
One day Aunt Emily bustled round to our house, and in her characteristic huffy puffy, so very much to do mode, pulled a parcel wrapped in brown paper from her shopping bag. “Grandma wanted you to have this to remember her by,” she said.
I stared at the black and white studio portrait depicting a handsome couple dressed in fine clothing. I didn’t recognise the dapper lady standing alongside Dad. Aunt Emily laughed. “He’s not your Dad. He’s your Granddad.”
I couldn’t equate the lopsided old woman sitting in the corner of Aunt Emily’s horrid, mustard kitchen with the debonair young lady in the elegant hat smiling at me. And now I have a Granddad?
I eventually learned a shameful family secret. But for now, I could be a little girl.
Time passed. I attended the Anglican Junior School in the village where everyone knew everyone else. On holy days, we formed pairs and walked in lines to St. James Church.
I was drawn to the huge mural behind the altar depicting Jesus on the cross. It was grubby looking; dingy and dark. The church was icy cold and we had to kneel on threadbare cushions to say prayers.
But I’d learned about Jesus in class. He said, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me,’ so I chatted silently with him. He didn’t drone on like the vicar did.
Village life for kids in the ‘50s was unsophisticated.
My best friend Mags lived down the lane. It was Saturday, no school. I donned my roller skates and zipped off.
Halfway, a yellow Ford Anglia pulled into the kerb. The young man called, “Hey sunshine, I’m looking for the Methodist Church.” Strangers were always getting lost these days. Dad said it was because more people could afford to run cars.
The Methodist Church was on the main road. “I’ve got a map,” he said, studying his lap. “Show me where.” Dad always went out of his way to help people, and so I followed suite. I was a cosseted child. I trusted grown-ups.
There was no map…
Something changed in our neighbourhood. The local park was now being patrolled by wardens with dogs. Kids were drilled about not speaking to strangers, especially men.
And sadly, a thirteen year old schoolgirl was found strangled on the canal towpath by the locks; the innocent whys from us kids remained unanswered.
We walked to church in our lines of twos and knelt on those ragged cushions to pray for Sally, who now lived in heaven, they said. I neither glanced nor spoke to Jesus that day. My rose coloured spectacles had become tainted.
Years later I learned the family secret.
Aged twenty-nine Grandma suffered a major stroke during childbirth, resulting in hemiplegia. Unable to care for her baby a relative took her in. Having recently buried a two year old, Hannah, who I’m told was the image of my two year old self, Grandma pined for her new-born baby girl.
But Granddad would not have her back. He drank and gambled money that she believed was being taken for baby’s keep. Granddad died in the Asylum suffering from GPI.*
Grandma cried when she saw her lost babies in me. I hope to meet her again. I want to give her a great big hug.
*GPI, or General Paralysis of the Insane, was a neuropsychiatric disorder caused by late-stage Syphilis in the days before antibiotics.
*Scripture reference. Matthew 19:14 KJV
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
Accept Jesus as Your Lord and Savior Right Now - CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.