Kiddies have a way.
No spite, no prejudice. No sides, no pretence. They just have a way…
The last time I saw my grandson, Cameron, was March 8th. Sunday. The day after my second run of dates at the Holborn Pizza Express concluded. We were celebrating my birthday which had fallen on February 27th. This Sunday gave us, the family, our first chance to be together.
We met for lunch, eight of us, including Penelope (one) and Cameron, who had recently celebrated his fourth birthday. In Covent Garden. Italian. Quite posh, but with staff, as you’d expect in a proper Italian establishment, who adored kiddies and so made our noisy presence feel welcome. Penelope crawled the dining room floor, like a curious wee crab, feeling, learning with every touch; the manager called her on. He beckoned her. We felt a calm, relaxed air, and this among Italians! That’s how loving they are. Cameron wandered and posed; the waiters gave him bread sticks.
I showed the lad photographs from a personal archive. On my iPhone, between main course and dessert, to amuse him. To distract him. To allow his mummy and daddy a little respite, a few quiet moments with the other adults. And it was no hard task for me; I love being alone with him. He’s some character, never less than interesting, and always curious.
We picked at a photo of my son, Kerr, from 1987, when he was five.
I said, “Cami, who is that?”
“Me” –without a beat, he seemed so sure…..
“No. It’s your daddy.”
The National Health Service saved my life. In 1954, August, aged three years 6 months, an earlier epidemic was rife. Polio. I got it. Doctors told my dad, “Stephen won’t make it through the night.” I have reliable witness reports of events, based on information from my Auntie Gertie (my dad’s older sister – one of several), and my parents’ close friend at the time, Phyllis Burford, and from my Auntie Barbara, a close confidante of my ma’s. Police motor-cycle outriders rode as a posse ahead of the ambulance that collected me. I remember nothing of these events. Nothing at all. Had I been taken halfway to Paradise and recovered? Brought back from the precipice of purgatory? Nobody can know now.
What I know is that children get over things. Because they don’t remember. It all passes. Cameron glanced at a snapshot and took a view. He took an instant, unguarded snapshot of the snapshot. And was mistaken. He saw himself. But he was looking at his father. My son.
My grandson was seeing himself, and I was watching him seeing my son. His daddy.
Cameron came to the point without a beat.
“Why has he got my face?”
We shared a spoon of choco ice cream.
Kiddies have a way.