boxExcerpt from Susannah’s Box

When I was 8, I got invited to Jenny Pollards birthday but didn’t have a proper frock.  Susanna knew how much I wanted to go and got some pink silk from Brick Lane.  She embroidered the hem, neckline and sleeves with pretty white flowers and even came up with some shiny white pumps.  My sisters pointed out the fact that we didn’t have any money, and how unfair it was that I got a new outfit because I was the youngest. 

 I don’t know why I had to go spoil everything by eating so much that I was sick at the party.  Must have been the sight of that table groaning with all the food we seldom got to eat anymore; cakes, jellies, sausages on sticks, ham sandwiches, and jammy donuts. Mrs Pollard was nice about it though and gave me one of Jenny’s dresses to wear for the rest of the party.  Everyone stared at me after that and I was glad when Susannah came to take me home.

“What happened to your dress?”

Mrs Pollard took her aside for a word and when she walked back to me, her face was all squeezed up as if she was in pain or something.  She thanked Mrs Pollard, yanked me out of the house and as soon as the door closed behind us, looked at me for a long time and made a hissing noise with her tongue.

“Why are you disgracing me like this eh? Do we not have any food in our house?”

I was about to say that we didn’t, well not really nice food any way but the look on her face stopped me. We went home without a word.

I never did get invited to any more of Jenny’s parties.

Sometimes on Saturdays when Susannah had the morning off we would climb on the bed and watch as she opened the trunk and show us her treasures.  There were laces, gauzes, delicately embroidered laces with hand stitched jewels and pretend diamante, rich velvets and chiffon.  Her wedding gown; all cream and embroidered sliver was neatly packed with mothballs and wrapped in cellophane waiting for the first of us to get married.

Maybe it is good that she is no longer here to see us three well into our thirties still unmarried. Marcia and Pete were living together and I and Pam single parents.    Marriage had been her ideal despite her disappointment with Dad.

Don’t get me started on my Dad. The last time I saw him was at the party of his last grandchild. We aren’t a close family but we do try to maintain appearances when it comes to family occasions. He doesn’t look bad for a man going on sixty.  His wife Betty was there as well. She looks rather wizened nowadays nothing like Susannah would have been at her age. Dad’s son Alex was there with one of his baby mammas attached to his arm. She had this ginger weave that made her look like an extra out of the Lion king.

Back in the seventies all we had was the Tele. Nothing posh like theatre productions. Pantos were good though. Susannah took us to see Cinderella one Christmas.

I liked comedies like Rising Damp and Some Mother’s do have them because they made us all laugh. Susanna seldom laughed but when she did it made everyone more relaxed.  For a few minutes she would forget about the unpaid gas and electricity, the fact that we always seemed to be growing out of our shoes, clothes or uniforms or that she had bumped into Dad and Aunty Betty down the High Street pushing their little boy in his new posh pram.

Susannah and Dad always exchanged polite greetings but she would ignore Aunt Betty. You see Aunt Betty used to look after us when Susannah went to work. That is how the whole trouble started.

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