Recently I went to a concert at the grandchildren’s school with my ex husband, my daughter’s dad, for the first time. He lives overseas so opportunities like this seldom crop up. In the past I’ve glanced at a few ‘Sex with the Ex?’ articles in women’s mags, but I don’t remember any about ‘School Concert with the Ex?’. This could well be because it could be fractionally less fraught with the potential for disaster.
There must be masses of grandparents with previous marriages and partnerships and I wonder if some of them, like me, still feel marginally on edge with the ex. There are still subjects to be avoided, although we’ve been apart for nigh on half a century and there’s been a veritable deluge of water under the bridge.
Well, I was thinking, we have rather different world views. But, of course, with my daughter, son and our six grandchildren, you could say that we have quite a lot in common – but even this subject can run out of steam. So with a bit of trepidation I arrived at my daughter’s house and there he was. And, jolly good show, he likes to talk about people from the olden days and started telling me about folk I can only dimly remember or not at all. Like people of our age, some of them have got Alzheimers recently or died or both. Oh dear.
Meanwhile toddler boy was practising his pirouettes (he really is rather good) in a blue flowery dress. His grandpa took it all in good part simply saying that he’d got time to grow out of it. But granddaughter 2 is not too keen on toddler boy turning up at school in a dress and my daughter is demon at negotiating with him. So camouflage complete (with dress tucked into trousers, jacket over the top), we arrived at the school, not quite fashionably late and in time to get seats in the back row. Toddler boy fell asleep cuddled up to his mum so wasn’t able to dance to the music and show off his ballet moves (or his dress). Shame.
Granddaughter 2 filed into the hall with the rest of the choir – they were wearing white blouses with a treble clef on the front – very Albert Hall. Still slightly at sixes and sevens I greeted her rather loudly and gave a little wave. Oh dear, she looked a bit abashed – how embarrassing can one granny be? For the rest of the concert she avoided eye contact so I averted my eyes and shrunk down in my seat. Granddaughter 3 was out of sight from where I was sitting, lucky for her.
Grandpa told me he was surprised to see so many oldies like us in the audience. Well, a lot of grandparents like to come to enjoy the concert and to support their grandchildren and of course a lot are also involved in taking them home from school. And sitting along from us was a group of elderly people from the local old people’s home, with zimmer frames in front of them like a row of mini pylons. ‘Gosh, it makes me feel quite young’, whispered my ex who was recovering from an operation on his back to help him walk without a stick. We both looked at them and at each other, tacitly agreeing, I think, that ‘That could be us soon’.
And it was a fine concert and granddaughters 2 and 3 did their music teacher, the school and us proud. Granddaughter 2 and choir started off chim-chimen-y-ing and spoonful of sugar-ing in a Mary Poppins compilation with Julie Andrews-style jolly hockey stick arm movements. Granddaughter 3 moved forward with the Recorder Quartet. She practises sitting on her bed and I’d heard bits of When the Saints Come Marchin’ in floating cheerily down the stairs. She piped her part perfectly with only the top of her head visible above the music stand – next year I expect we’ll be able to see her eyes and nose too. A silvery haired gent in the audience sang along to Danny Boy in a sweet silvery voice. Grandpa has always liked a bit of a sing, but he kept schtum. Maybe in a few years’ time…
At home granddaughters 2 and 3 disappeared into the kitchen to have a bit of a barney over who should use my electric whisk first a) to make ice cream (granddaughter 3) and b) to make Nutella mousse (granddaughter 2, naturally). Since granddaughter 3 had phoned me at 7.30am that day to ask me to bring said whisk, it should be her turn first, said Solomon the Granny. Granddaughter 1 arrived from the school bus and silently slipped upstairs. How wise.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, my partner was varnishing the floor in the hall, as you do. Unusually for him, he phoned me with a progress report – or was he checking up on me and the ex? Quite the opposite in fact: he was marooned upstairs with the varnish still wet ‘…so if you feel like spending more time chatting with your ex, that would be fine’, he said. Hmmm.
Well, things were fine with granny and grandpa. And later I got to thinking – getting old is something else we have in common apart from ou, two fantastic offspring and six gorgeous grandchildren. I think in the subtext of our conversation that day was the knowledge that a long time ago it was us who were the parents with children and our parents were the grandparents. Now things have cranked up a notch and it’s us who are the old ones now with much more time behind us than there is ahead. A sobering, but uniting, thought.