Daisy, meet Daisy

June 25, 2010 at 12:37 pm (Family)

In a lovely, and not entirely unexpected turn of events (we did have a few months to prepare), I recently became an Aunty to a beautiful baby girl. My brother and his wife had informed us at their baby shower of the baby’s gender, which was a great way to generate excitement (and gender-specific presents) and a feeling of ‘knowing’ our new relative before she had even arrived.

So the big surprise on the day was always going to be the name (I know, I know, the weight is always a big deal too, but probably not as big a deal as it is to the mother…) and when it was announced, I felt a strange lurch of recognition, delight and also an unexpected stab of possessiveness. There is already a Daisy Taylor! It was so strange to hear the name said aloud after such a long time.

Daisy Isobel Mullens Taylor is named after our (my brother, myself and our four cousins) grandmother, Daisy Bradford Taylor. She died some years ago of cancer at the age of 79 and would be absolutely besotted with her tiny namesake, her first great-grand-daughter.

I was going to put up the eulogy I gave at her funeral but that was a piece written under duress and delivered under a cloud of grief and I don’t think that it gives baby Daisy a balanced view of Daisy Bradford…her life was about so much more than the last few traumatic months of hospital stays and deathbed vigils.

Daisy Bradford was probably made to be a grandmother. A widow longer than she was a wife, her own children’s children gave her the chance to variously fuss, indulge, coddle and teach.  We learned to play Snakes and Ladders and Monopoly, how to knit (ok, none of us really did learn this very well), and how to do jigsaw puzzles, all in the sunny front room at Asling St.

Family occasions centred around her house, where the kettle was permanently on, a meal was permanently in the oven with a plate over the top (there was certainly no microwave in the house) and the table was always set for breakfast by half past eight the night before.

Daisy never met a cat she couldn’t bath. Tiger, Maverick, Cougar and Merlin (there may have been a Top Gun theme there for a while) all felt the wrath of her ministrations at regular intervals, although they frequently had their revenge at around sundown when they were supposed to come inside for their dinner. These well-fed felines would dance frustratingly along the boundaries, just out of reach, until a misstep meant she could peel them off the fence like reluctant velcro.

She basically resembled a perpetual motion machine…constantly ‘doing’. She was not a woman who suffered idleness. I think her couch was still ‘as new’ five years after she bought it, it so rarely was it sat upon (except maybe when Sale of the Century was on). If she had no-one to knit for at the time (as we were all fully clothed in jumpers, vests and scarves), she’d knit for the Brotherhood bin. It’s amazing to think of the number of people who might be walking around in Daisy Taylor originals.

She never had her licence, so cycled around the beautiful streets of Brighton to run all of her errands. Still working, well into her 70s (cleaning houses for people younger than her), it was a difficult admission to make that perhaps she should ‘retire’. A broken hip forced the decision upon her and was probably the only thing that could have done so (family suggestions being easier to ignore than broken bones). It didn’t really slow her down that much…at Lucas’ beach baptism, she steamed determinedly into the waves, with her walking frame, up to her knees.

When I lived with her, I have never been so cossetted. I remember calling her from work one day at around 11am, having just arranged after-work drinks with my new colleagues. ‘Gran, I won’t be home for dinner, so you don’t need to worry about me.’ ‘Oh…’ she said in a tone that I knew well. Dinner was already well underway. ‘It’s ok…leave it in the oven, I won’t be too late.’

She was the lightest sleeper known to man. So even if she was in bed by 8.30, I knew she knew exactly what time I slunk up the passage, even if I had rolled the car silently up the narrow driveway.

When she fell ill, she tried to soldier on, admitting nothing, playing things down. I left for work one morning, when she had brightly denied feeling poorly, despite the fact I had heard her get up during the night (haha, I’d inherited those radar ears!). I got halfway to the station and suddenly decided to turn back and force her to go to the doctor…I expected a fight that I didn’t get. I have never felt so grownup and childlike at the same time, sitting with her in the doctor’s office, being told some fairly hard truths and not knowing whether to collapse in tears, take notes for the rest of the family or stay strong and positive and not upset her. I’m forever glad that I decided to choose the latter. We drove home and ate toast and honey, and talked of things of no consequence… I guess I’d inherited more than I thought.

I think Daisy is the last person to have ever written me a letter. Remember those? Her neat, cursive writing fills many sheets of paper that I still treasure, particularly one she wrote to me when I was overseas, slightly homesick and desperate for mail. The letter was written literally minutes after I had called her, having gotten up at 5am to use the public phone (remember those?) and she wrote about how pleased she was that I had called and what a lovely surprise it was… possibly the only thankyou letter I have ever received for a phonecall! She also wrote the Lord’s Prayer out for me, on a little card, to help me learn it (and I have to confess that I did and still consider that the ‘proper’ version…none of your fancy New International Versions for me!)

Little baby Daisy Taylor has some shoes to fill, but I am certain that Daisy Mark One will be watching to ensure that she turns into a practical, capable, loving, funny and determined young woman. She is certainly already a light enough sleeper 🙂

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