‘Auntie Glad’

It is Thursday and Thursdays are always good days because Auntie Glad used to visit on Thursdays.

My father was the youngest in a family of thirteen.  Gladys was the eldest and when their parents died, my father went to live with her and her husband.

She was always Auntie Glad to us as children; she was warm and cuddly, interested in all that we did, a loving sister-mum to our Dad and very supportive to our own Mum.

Not a ‘real’ grandmother in the truest sense of the word but to us she was better, and Thursdays were always the best.

My childhood memories up until the age of about eight or nine are almost completely happy.  Long summer days playing out and winter nights reading my way through the local library.  After proving that I really was reading every book that I took out, the librarian allowed me to take out four books on my ticket, smiling benevolently when I came back in the afternoon for four more.

Not on Thursdays though. Nothing was ever allowed to interfere with Auntie Glad’s visits.

Auntie Glad’s husband and grown-up daughter worked at the tobacco factory, so she would come over to our house on the bus after lunch and go back home on the bus in time to cook their dinner.  Somewhere en route she would buy us sweets.  Three crisp white paper bags containing rainbow drops – not those horrible brightly coloured puffed rice things – but little discs of milk chocolate covered on one side by hundreds and thousands.

Within half an hour the bags were empty: no longer crisp but limp, holed by small wet fingers desperate to get the last of the hundreds and thousands from the corners.

It didn’t matter how naughty we were.  Auntie Glad still visited and she still brought us rainbow drops.

I can remember a miserable Wednesday when I decided to scrawl across the wall with my crayons.  Berated by my mother as she tried to scrub off the marks, I wailed “I wish it was Thursday!”

“So do I!” was my mother’s heartfelt response.  Auntie Glad always used to make things better for her too.

When my mother went into hospital for a minor operation, I was sent to Auntie Glad’s for a week.  It was like being in heaven.  I pottered happily around the house following Auntie Glad and ‘helping’; was introduced to the joys of hot Oxo at bedtime; and watched a film called ‘The Rocking Horse Winner’ which both confused and excited me.  Auntie Glad’s husband and daughter came home from work and brought me comics and exciting little tin boxes that smelled of tobacco and had a sailor’s face on the front.

When Auntie Glad became ill, we went on the bus to see her. She became frail and had something mysterious called ‘shingles’ on her face.  It was always covered by a bandage and we could only kiss her on the other cheek and be extra gentle when we hugged.

I know now that she was in a great deal of pain at the time but she always made the effort to get dressed and be ready for our visits, determined not to upset us by showing us her pain.

Her death hit all of us hard. For my parents it was the death knell on their marriage: she had been the glue that held them together, the role model for my mother, and her understanding of my father’s depression always enabled her to bring him out of his black gloom.

A bright light went out for me.  Every time I thought of Auntie Glad I heard the words of the song ‘Puff the Magic Dragon‘.

Then one night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more and Puff the Magic Dragon, he ceased his fearless roar“.

I know.  It was Jackie Paper that grew up and stopped visiting the land of Honalee, but when Auntie Glad died and there were no more wonderful Thursdays it was as if my own magic dragon had died too.

The Thursdays came back eventually as I discovered that there were other magical people in my world who could also make me happy.

Rainbow drops are still wonderful, even if they no longer come in little white paper bags and Thursdays will always be special days.



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