Home with Mam

Despite the war people carried on as best they could. By July 1944, the end of the war was in sight. I vividly remember one particular day…..

Mills Brothers – ‘You Always Hurt The One You Love’  1944
So if I broke
Your heart last night
It’s because
I love you most of all.

The Mills Brothers were finishing the last few bars of their latest hit through the scratchy reception on the wireless. It was 8:40am and Tommy had just finished the last crust of his jam sandwich breakfast and gulped down the last dregs of milky tea. He was only six and in his second year of school, but quite able to walk around to Derwent Street Infants, two doors up from Gran’s, on the corner of Harrison and Derwent Streets.

I desperately wanted to go with him, or at least have Tommy stay to play with me. Stan Kenton and his Orchestra were launching into their latest hit.

“He has to go to school. He’ll be back at dinner time,” explained Mam. Tears welled up and stung my eyes.

The Pied Pipers – ‘Straighten up and Fly Right’  1945
Ain’t no use in divin’
What’s the use of jivin’
Straighten up and fly right
Cool down papa, don’t you blow your top

Some of my earliest memories are of the weekly ‘girls’ afternoons’ that she and her sister Freda organized.

Mam fussed around the kitchen table spreading her hands over the embroidered tablecloth, smoothing out the ironing folds. She glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece. The others would be here soon. She set out her best cups and saucers, filled the kettle and sat it on the gas ring in readiness. The spread was quite modest. Rationing had been increased to include meat and flour.

On top of this, Tommy had spent the last week and a half laid up with his steadily worsening bronchial asthma, so funds were getting to the critical stage yet again. I was blissfully unaware of the state of the finances and played happily with my blocks on the clippy mat in front of the fire.

Freda and Edie arrived first.

“Have you heard from our Teddy?” Mam inquired.

Helen Forrest & Dick Haymes – ‘It Had To Be You’ 1945
One of Mirry’s favourites
For nobody else gave me a thrill
With all your faults, I love you still
It had to be you, wonderful you
It had to be you

Teddy, Mam’s younger brother, was in the Green Howards, the local infantry regiment, and it was always a mystery where he was at any given time. He tried to give cryptic clues in his letters, but the Army vetted all correspondence before it was forwarded on.

“Not for a while, but we think he’s somewhere up near the German border,” Edie replied.

“I was expecting our Ronnie home this weekend. He said he had a two-day pass but now says something’s come up,” Freda contributed.

“I hope he hasn’t a fancy woman down there,” joked Edie.

Ronnie had been called up in 1941 and was serving in the RAF in the Midlands, loading bombs into Halifax and Lancaster bombers.

“I wouldn’t joke about that if I was you. It goes on you know,” answered Freda glumly.

Always last to arrive, their Cousin Ruby walked in just as the kettle started to boil. Mam picked up the teapot.

“That was good timing. Come in luv and sit by the fire.”

Later they sat around chatting quietly. I was a little tired and bored with my blocks, so wandered over and quietly climbed onto Mam’s lap. Mam gave me an affectionate hug and I felt safe and warm. I could feel the comforting rhythmic pulse of her heart and hear the sounds of her body.

After a short while Mam gently eased me from her lap and whispered. “Hop down luv, you’re a big boy now.”

I dropped to the floor and headed back to my old biscuit tin, tipping out the toys with a feeling of guilt and regret.

Perry Como – ‘Til the end of time’  1945
Till the end of time
Long as stars are in the blue
Long as there’s a Spring of birds to sing
I’ll go on loving you

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