From ‘What’d She Say, Tom?’ by Eunice C English. Exerpt from my first six months of my five-year stint as live-in carer for my elderly parents. I learned a lot about myself, and them, for it was like re-living my childhood over again:
I was rummaging in the spare room cupboard to find Dad’s accordion, for he had asked me to get it out. Mum was very worried that it would be too much for his heart, since she thought it had been once before. Of course Dad didn’t agree, and had to prove it for himself.
However I found it at the very back of the cupboard under the roof, after I had pulled out a heavy suitcase and a couple of dozen rolls of assorted wallpaper, plus a multitude of other items ‘that may come in useful’, one day.
Old microphones, an ultra-red lamp that is probably highly dangerous, and the like. I am letting everything air off while I get my energy back to slot it all back in. Dad enjoyed his ‘burst’ on the accordion, but I think he will be satisfied now. He is a lot more settled these days. He says he has slept really well while I have been in the house.
Anyway, I went back up and opened the very old blue suitcase with the metal trim. Inside I found books from my youth, at least 50 years old! I was a keen reader. I found my favourite book, Family from Kilmory by Elizabeth Leitch. It was my Sunday School prize for perfect attendance in 1954/55. I confess that was due to very strict parents rather than piety. Even last Sunday they made sure I was up for church!
There was a Sunday School prize of Auntie Jessie’s too, which is all but 100 years old. I used to read Little Women lots of times, not knowing how special it was, since I was very fond of Auntie Jessie. These are pleasures you only appreciate later in life, when lots of people have thrown these kind of items out.
Best of all was to notice a scrap of paper peeping out of a tattered-looking book. On inspection I found, tucked between the pages, lots of lovely coloured glossy scraps, the paper cut-outs we used to buy from the toy shop in Ayr. When a rainy day saw us confined to the school lunch shed at the end of the playground in Alloway, out would come the books from the schoolbags, and we would start ‘swapping scraps’.
We did this with the intensity that young ones give to playing computer games. Each book had either one scrap to each page, or a ‘set’. A set had much more trading power, because the small, medium and large of the same picture were harder to collect. On the back of each scrap we would pencil a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, depending on whether we were willing to exchange. We would form pairs, exchange books and go from page to page, pushing up to the top of the pages each picture we wanted.
Then we swapped the books back, went to each scrap poking out and negotiated! It was very engrossing, and passed the lunch time when it was too wet or cold to play out in the open. Huddled in the open-fronted wooden framed shed along the back bench or at the tables we kept warm. The scrap season only lasted a few weeks, then it was marbles, or conkers, or skipping.
Oh there were still fights in the boys playground, which caused great excitement when cries of ‘fight! Fight! It was all over in a flash as soon as the teachers stepped in. We had strict discipline at our school, but must have had some problem kids. We were just too occupied to notice.
So now I have scraps of elves, fairies, girls with flowers, boys with flowers (try that today!) religious scenes, angels, and a host of animals. I am tempted to share them between my girl grandchildren, but would they see the significance of these very old, and dated pics? Maybe not at their age in this throway society.
Just one problem. Where the heck am I going to keep them? Back in the blue suitcase in the cupboard for now. After all, they have kept very well there all this time.