‘If I had to live in the UK, I’d live here.’
‘Ha! No question.’
So goes my grandma, Wanda, aka the toddler, aka the heart electrics lady. She made it to Borth again last Friday after seven years. We thought she’d never see this place again.
She got out of my mum’s car. Circled the yard. ‘It’s exactly the same, except Grandpa’s not here.’ Her voice was regretfully soft. Two points for charm. Wanda always liked coming here.
Less than twenty-four hours in, Vronnie walked into the bungalow. She’d just driven from her own parents’ house in the Midlands. She had her hands gripped together.
‘Guess what was in the utility room?
We peered into her hands. A brown ball was curled into her fist.
‘What is that?’ A mouse with ‘W’ shaped wings and tiny round ears.. ahh. A tiny bat!
‘Vronnie – come and show my grandma. She’s reading in the living room.’
Vronnie approached Wanda. Wanda looked up from her book. ‘Who is this?’
‘It’s Vronnie of course.’
Wanda shook her head incredulously at my step-mother-in-law. She moved her hands apart. ‘You have grown!’
I watched Vronnie try not to blush. I said, ‘Babciu – that’s not very kind!’
Wanda smiled sweetly at me. ‘What? It’s just the truth.’
Meanwhile, the bat didn’t seem so well. It twitched in Vronnie’s hand like on its last breath. Vronnie covered it gently with her hand again. ‘I’ll go give it some water.’
I don’t blame Vronnie for escaping. But if she thought she had escaped my grandma, she had another thing coming.
We went over to hers the next day – to say hi to her parents. Vronnie’s parents are nice, country people. They didn’t make many appearances when Grandpa was around. Now they often come and stop with Vronnie.
It took a while for Wanda to climb the stairs. She huffed and puffed her way up. Vronnie seemed surprised to see her, but didn’t spend a lot of time going over the obligatory hi’s. We met her parents, They commented on how good my grandma looks. She smiled knowingly and made a philosophical remark about enjoying life, which I translated. They nodded in agreement. Then Wanda turned to Vronnie and asked to see him. Grandpa.
Years ago, when my grandma was visiting, my father-in-law turned to me and said, ‘If I’d have met her when I was younger, I would have married her.’ It was one of his crazier comments, but I took it in. Ten years apart in age, they would have made the power couple indeed. She would have tolerated his dalliances. He would have turned a blind-eye to the more excessive examples of her empire-building. The overall focus would have been on the children.
Another lifetime, I thought. And that’s when Vronnie brought the urn from the bedroom – blue and shiny and marbled. Wanda approached it and began to speak softly. Everyone listened, though only I understood. I didn’t translate.
We didn’t stay much longer after that. It was time to go to Aberystywyth and re-visit all the places we used to hang out when the girls were little and we lived in Morawel, the big house overlooking the sea. My grandma was part of buying that big house and moving from London to Wales.
‘You know,’ she said, as we were leaving, ‘I can’t think of a nicer place to live.’
I looked behind us at the top of the stairs. Caught the tears running down Vronnie’s cheeks.