The morning that my dear friend Uncle B’s mother passed away, I was at a play centre with another friend, our collective six children, and another hundred parents and children, all screaming alike.
I felt desperate to call Uncle B to pass on my condolences but, somehow, it felt inappropriate to be shouting “I’M SORRY ABOUT YOUR MOTHER!” over the sound of children pelting the shit out of each other with multi-coloured plastic balls.
When I finally spoke to Uncle B later in the day and told him all this, he had the grace to chuckle wryly, even though telling him about it was perhaps just as inappropriate as doing it. And this response only compounded the knowledge that, while I never really got to know his mother, the one thing I did know about her with great certainty is that she produced a mighty fine son.
I decided on the spot that the one gift I could give him and his wife (and also my dear friend) KT, was my finely-honed child-wrangling services at the funeral. As we all know, there is a hair’s breadth difference between small children being present at an event and small children running riot at an event. And I was going to try to give them the joy and comfort of having their kids at the funeral service but without the stress.
As it turned out, Cyclone Bella, aged three and ably living up to her nom de guerre, was the first to develop an acute case of “ants pants” during her grandmother’s funeral. After exhausting the novelty value of all the contents of my handbag, I swiftly led her to the foyer area at the back of the chapel. And there, in desperation, I started flicking through all the funeral parlour brochures and trying to cobble together a narrative of sorts from their photos. My story went something like this: “Once upon a time, there was a little girl who felt very very sad but then one day a lovely fairy from Blah-Blah Funeral Services gave her a magic flower to, um, lay on a coffin…”
In the end, I gave up and just asked Bella to point out which of the funeral directors pictured were most likely to be wizards and which ones were secretly evil goblins. I have to say that Bella called it pretty accurately for a three year-old.
But then, lo! An actual lovely fairy from Blah-Blah Funeral Services, stepped forth and gave us a magical gift. It was a book from “The Care Bears” series and, although Bella was thrilled, I have to say that, after a few pages, I found myself wishing we could go back to the brochures.
Anyway, my supervision duties during the reception ended up being similarly fraught. Every time I took my eyes of Bella and her brother Master J for a nanosecond, I’d find them spooning sugar into each other’s mouths at the tea and coffee trolley or, in Master J’s case, blowing out the Very Special Candle the priest had lit for his grandmother.
And so in the end, I took both kids outside to sit in the Love Bus. I think we all know by now that the Love Bus is a wondrous vehicle, mostly because I never clean it out and you never know what might lurk within. Cyclone Bella was so excited that she ran ahead and hugged the Love Bus and, as if by magic, it delivered unto us all some bottles of bubble-blowing mixture left over from long-discarded party bags.
And so the three of us sat in the back with the sliding door open, blowing bubbles to see if we could make one go as far as the moon, which was still visible in the clear blue sky. And I thought of Uncle B’s mother and how here, before me, was her legacy, these smiling, happy children, blowing bubbles at the moon. And I felt honoured and sad and hopeful all at the same time.
Rest in peace, Nana P.