My beloved Aunty Nance passed away on June 14, 1981. By an amazing coincidence, my first child was born exactly eight years later, June 14, 1989 and I could see the room she died in from the maternity ward window.
Throughout my childhood, I spent as many holidays at Aunty Nance’s spotless house as I could, my first visit at age six. Each Saturday, despite it’s immaculate condition, the Zephyr Zodiac was lovingly polished. The seats and doors still wore their plastic covers from the sales showroom. A guest bedroom contained gleaming mahogany and meticulously made beds – not to be sat on after making. I was glad to leave my own chaotic bedroom and bask in the peace of this perfect room.
Aunty Nance wore sedate dresses, stockings, and demure slippers indoors. I was fascinated by the way she twisted her long black hair around a knitting needle in front of her bathroom mirror each morning. Her “do” remained pristine until bedtime.
We held Uncle George, a gruff bulldog of a man, in a kind of sacred terror. He’d bark at us children “Don’t touch the wallpaper!” Yet he could be kind and funny, even gentle sometimes. I loved him, but was grateful for Auntie’s intervention, “Oh George, you silly old man, do be quiet!” when he teased me until I cried.
Once Uncle went to work, Aunty and I enjoyed each other. Time passed quickly, with outings, sweets, baking, books, board games, cuddles with her morbidly obese temperamental cat, Christie. I spent hours copying out my favourite Famous Five books on her ancient typewriter at the ironing table.
They called me “Shanny” a name no one else would dare to use. Aunty laughed a lot at my earnest childishness. I had asked, “Has Christie got a radio in him?” when I first heard him purr and Aunty repeated my question as though it was clever to anyone who would listen. She loved my siblings, but I knew I was her favorite.
When Aunty Nance died, a door slammed on my childhood.