A childhood remembered
A couple of days ago my cousin died, her death was both expected and unexpected.
As children our lives were intertwined. Our mothers were sisters and during the school holidays our Great Aunt Annie who lived on the same small street as my cousins looked after us and our siblings. My memories of playing with cousin Hazel are fond ones, making mud pies in the gutter and running around barefoot on a hot pavement; it never seemed to rain although I do remember snow.
On the opposite side of the narrow street was a pub with a long garden that led to a large stone house, where we spent many hours playing, no one seemed to mind how often we played, nor how much noise we made.
Hazel and I had vivid imaginations and played out endless games of play acting, sometimes taking on the parts of each of the Famous Five and often we made up our own stories and characters. Occasionally we played on the swings and slides at the recreation ground and I remember playing on the edge of a large pond, it seemed to take forever to get there and now I can’t even remember where it was! I don’t remember us ever playing with toys, there was no need because we had our imaginations and we read a lot of books.
In our teens we listened to lots of music and went out together, often to the cinema where we watched all the latest films, my favourite being ‘It’s Great to Be Young’ and on Saturday afternoons you could find us dancing at the Mecca where the infamous Jimmy Savile was the resident DJ.
Hazel along with her sister Angela had ballroom dancing lessons and occasionally I joined them. We stayed over at each other’s houses and as eighteen year olds we spent our first holiday abroad together, two weeks in Mallorca. It was during that holiday that Hazel met Geoff, her husband to be, I also met a boy and although the friendship lasted slightly longer than a holiday romance, it wasn’t to be. However, Hazel’s romance stayed the test of time and a couple of years later she and Geoff were married and she moved to London.
Becoming adults, getting married and Hazel moving away signalled the end of our close relationship. Hazel and Geoff moved to Oxford and later to Devon and as time moved on, living hundreds of miles apart and bringing up our own families meant we saw less and less of each other. At first there were news- letters, but even they faded away, until eventually, the only time we had any contact was at family funerals and suchlike.
Hazel had been ill for some years and I know how distressing and debilitating this can be, not only for the person suffering, but also for those closest to them. It’s easy to forget that when you are so close to someone, caring for them can be life changing and stressful , you become mindful that time is limited, but you don’t know how and you don’t know when.
I remember Hazel with such fondness, she was my childhood and I am sorry that she is gone, I shed a few unexpected tears and once again I’m aware of my own mortality and so perhaps the following is an appropriate end to this piece.
“One lives in the hope of becoming a memory” (Antonio Porchia). RIP Hazel.Footnote: Antonio Porchia, Argentinian poet – November 13, 1885 – November 9, 1968