We were on holiday in Greenock staying with my Mum and Dad when Anabel had her first birthday. One morning she was a bit clingy and I found she had quite a rough red spot on her back. None of us could think what might have caused it. We walked up to John’s parents’ home and consulted Mum Mitchell, who was a nurse. She said if we came to the hospital with her when she went on duty she would ask the Sister to look at it. The Sister thought it was chicken pox. Next morning we knew it was as Anabel was covered in spots! I don’t know where she could have got it as she wasn’t around other children a lot and we hadn’t heard of anyone having it. She wasn’t ‘poorly’ and we got calamine lotion to lessen the itch. That was the first of the childhood ailments over! John and I were really anxious and began to realise that no matter how much we love our children and how carefully we look after them, things can happen from which we cannot protect them. Anxiety and grief are other facets of love. Many years later, I wrote this………………
Weal and woe
Life can be hard and dreary when everything goes wrong,
When hopes all come to nothing and in one’s heart there is no song,
But it’s even worse when it happens to the bairns….
Life can be full of pleasure and take on a brand new lease,
When everything’s plain sailing and in one’s heart is joy and peace….
But it’s even better when it happens to the bairns.
Anabel recovered and had no noticeable ‘pockmarks’. We felt qualified as parents although maybe ‘nearly should’ be added as there were other hiccups in store for us as time went on!
We were ‘in with the bricks’ and happy with our lot. Life was full and interesting. Our wee daughter was growing physically and mentally. Before her second birthday came she was a book lover. Her first book when she was months old was a cloth one which could be chewed, sucked, thrown around and washed frequently. We read to her and told the traditional tales of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, etc., plus the nursery rhymes (with actions) which I’m sure she would recite if I asked her. I sang songs our Dad had sung to Annabel and me. If John was in she would she would pull at his trouser leg saying, ‘Ossy, Dada, Ossy’, (Horsey), wanting lifted up high and John to canter about while I sang Horsey, Horsey, don’t you stop! We got plenty of exercise. Of course, you probably think we absolutely doted on her and you would be right. We couldn’t imagine life without her. She got many little gifts at Easter and Christmas and her birthday from church friends but in spite of all the attention she got she didn’t become a ‘spoiled child’. So I guess we must have done something right!
I knew from Mary and Linda that the Infants learned from the Janet and John books so we got them in Carlisle on one of our quarterly visits after payday. We had to budget carefully but never grudged buying books. But I’m forgetting that we had a lot of Ladybird Books first. Anabel loved them, and before long had most of them off by heart and ‘read’ them along with us. I had an idea for a book I could make that would help her to connect names with objects. We bought a large scrapbook and I spent ages in the evenings sticking pictured from magazines, catalogues etc., each page for a different subject. Then I stuck on paper pockets under the pictures and inserted the name for the picture, written on card. Anabel liked to play with it, and at first the cards would end up in the wrong pockets leaving Mummy with the task of replacing them all. We would mix up the cards for one page at a time, and before long she could put them in the right place and say the word. When I saw something similar on sale a lot of years on I thought I should have taken out a patent for it!
We never pushed her but provided the material for her to use or not use. She loved her teddy and her dolls and the pram Santa brought her, and she loved being out in the open with Helen charging around like puppies let out their kennel. But she loved books and announced before she was in her teens that she was going to be either a Librarian or an Archivist. The latter made me envisage someone poring over ancient tomes alone in a dusty room somewhere which doubtless is far from reality. However she became a Librarian and always had plenty company. The discovery that Librarians don’t get to read books all the time, which was her idea of the job when she was a child¹, must have been a shock but she got over it!
¹ Editor’s Note – I hasten to add I discovered this aged about 10 and long before I went into the profession!