A little ginger frilly top with single embroidered butterfly

Frilly T shirt top with butterfly embroidery (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

One of the things I shall miss when I’m no longer in London on a regular weekly basis is the way small children change, and even grow, in front of your eyes. While mum was away at COP 26 for two weeks, the smallest person finally adopted her own bed as the place to stay in for the whole night, wistfully, telling her aunt that this single achievement was the really difficult thing about being a big girl now. Sleeping from 6.30pm to 5.30am (after which she couldn’t resist a visit to the parental bed) also meant she became much calmer and sweeter tempered which was especially helpful when on 2 days of the week the school journey starts earlier so her brother can do group violin practice and choir before the school day proper begins. The early start has its rewards, however, as she then gets to go to a café with daddy where she enjoys hot chocolate, a pastry and a one to one chat (and sometimes a free cookie if the owner is there). She has a taster violin session next week and their father expects her brother to be enthusiastic and encouraging about this so that, in due course, she may join an early morning music session herself  and he can then have hot chocolate and pastry with his father instead. How these small ambitions propel us through life – especially if food related and even more so if it means half an hour bonus time on your own with someone you love and adore.

Detail: Frilly T shirt top with butterfly embroidery (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

I try to help out with the violin practice as much as I can but it’s not easy fitting it in of an evening when there’s swimming, cricket and chess club – and that’s not to mention homework (and I shall be extremely happy if fronted adverbials are never mentioned again. In the same way that Mr Jourdan in The Bourgeois Gentilhomme discovered he’d been speaking prose all his life without knowing it, I have been using fronted adverbials – in perfect ignorance and until now, utter bliss.). Returning to the violin, however, my grandson has surprised me with his perseverance with what can be an unsympathetic musical instrument and I admired his ability to get a half decent noise out of what I now know to be a not very nice sounding instrument provided by the school. Then a couple of weeks ago he came home with a new violin, a gorgeous thing of gleaming golden wood, with a sound of honeyed creaminess and subtlety of tone that really hit a sweet spot in the hearer. The transformation in playing was a revelation. Lucky him for such a lovely instrument to be available – or is it the norm for a child to grind on with something that speaks the sound of chalk on a blackboard and then for resilience to be rewarded with a real instrument?

Frilly T shirt top with butterfly embroidery (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

When you’re 7 (very nearly 8), hair, teeth and limbs grown visibly by the week. The smart hair cut just before the autumn term started has become a thatcher’s nightmare, which even when smoothed over with Tangle Tease reverts back to something more like a hamster’s bedding than the crowning glory of a chorister. We sort of love it anyway, though the email about nits in the school may make us consider a taking the scissors to it. For his sister we’ve opted for the pony tail solution but already what was once a good stock of hair elastics has diminished to the point where mornings find one or other adult trawling the kitchen floor, peering behind the cards on the mantlepiece and turning out pockets for just anything that will do. (Like pencils, biros, teaspoons and the second of a pair of socks, it is a law of life that you lose them as quickly as you buy replacements,)  Happily, the 7 year old’s teeth are coming on very nicely and though the new ones are pretty big he seems to be blessed with a jaw arch wide enough to take them. Seemingly short baby legs have turned into ones fine for his age, though his lack of a waist does mean almost all school trousers we buy and attempt to adjust end up fitting him properly for a matter of days and then revert to the default position of falling halfway down his bottom – fortunately it doesn’t bother him. Belts don’t work and though we have thought of braces, we can just see him shrugging those off too. Suddenly we’ve rediscovered growing pains – and though I can no longer remember whether these are real or parental fiction, the very fact of naming them seems to have kept their severity at bay. Surprisingly, the tie has not been a problem but this may be because he has a badge for being School Counsellor which acts as an anchor to what can be an impossibly wayward piece of masculine attire. Things could be worse – like getting tights on somebody wriggly and giggly in the morning. All this, I shall miss, but I think I shall cope as I lie in my bed with my newspaper and breakfast tray.

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  1. Bev S.
    Posted November 21, 2021 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    What lovely descriptions of your grandchildren. I hope someday to have several too and there are plenty of books and toys that are in the basement awaiting the day!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 21, 2021 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, Bev. It’s so satisfying when toys – and even the odd item of clothing – gets played with and loved all over again.

  2. Posted November 21, 2021 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    A really gorgeous, real, and loving, description of your grandchildren.

    I was involved in a discussion about fronted adverbials on Twitter a few days ago and mentioned to my mother that I’d attained the age of 52 before knowing what one was, even though I’ve been blithely using them for years. She promptly one-upped me by asking what in Heaven’s name a fronted adverbial might be!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 21, 2021 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

      If it’s any comfort, the 40 year olds in the family were not much wiser than me, you and your mother and I suspect we’ve all managed decent literary styles without ever having consciously thought about using them.

      • Posted December 15, 2021 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

        I think you’re right. The wretched things have become the latest craze!

  3. Mary
    Posted November 22, 2021 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    I imagine the new instrument has made a significant difference in your grandson’s enjoyment of learning/playing the violin. Think of how hard he had to work to make the other one sound decent.

    Your description of your granddaughter’s alone time with her Dad reminds me of the practice I followed when my four were growing up. As a single working mom, I scheduled alone time with each of my four children about once every six weeks–usually taking them out to their favorite eatery for lunch. They had to pick a topic of conversation for the day–because we were going to have a conversation (thankfully, in the days before electronic devices). One son–at the age of 9–asked me to explain economics (one of my least favorite university subjects :). But it turned out to be great fun. He had many thoughtful questions. Had some very lively and memorable conversations with each of them over the years. Now, they do the same thing with their growing off-spring. So important to listen to children’s hopes and dreams (preferably without interruptions).

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 23, 2021 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      You are so right, Mary. One to one time is so very important for both child and parent. You did very well to manage it on your own with your 4 and it’s lovely to hear your won children continuing the practice. I don’t think we ever did it as a regular thing until the children were much older and even then it was probably because of visits to the orthodontist or similar.A good idea to hold on to.

  4. ceci
    Posted December 7, 2021 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    One of my seasonal treats is looking back in your archives at your Christmas ornaments and cards. One year I even made a batch of embroidered birds inspired by your flock! So this is to let you know that your efforts from years ago continue to inspire and comfort as the year darkens.


    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 16, 2021 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much for letting me know Ceci. This last half year has been more complicated and I’ve given up making my usual embroidered Christmas card – which makes me feel quite uncomfortable – so it’s especially nice to hear you refer to my past Christmas activity.

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