One of the most difficult aspects of being human is balancing our urge to project a narrative on our lives with the knowledge that we’re not really in a story at all. The people we love come and go, and it’s easy to think that they are following an arc in order to help us shape a happy ending. The reality is much more simple and prosaic. We’re born and, eventually, we die. Those are the only inevitabilities.
Yet, it’s hard not to feel as though you’re living in a story when birth follows death with speed and symmetry. Last year, my beloved Granny Margaret died. She was 90. She’d had seven children and 18 grandchildren. She was a former member of Mensa (she stropped off when they lowered the IQ requirement), she’d appeared on Woman’s Hour several times, she was an insatiable reader, a cryptic crossword queen, a swearer, a smoker and a fierce hugger. She taught me how to curtsy and she told me the filthiest jokes I know. My niece, Penny, was born the day before her funeral. I didn’t know I had such a great capacity for sorrow or joy until then – certainly not simultaneously. I had to say goodbye to the oldest person I knew and then meet the newest. My heart ached and swelled with love for Penny, even though no one really knew who she was or who she would be. Just that she would grow up loved, as we had all been loved by Margaret.
Around this time, my auntie Olivia gave me a gift: an opal ring, set with two sapphires, that had been given to her by Margaret, her mother. She told me that she had been meaning to pass it on to me for ages and Granny’s death had jogged her memory. It’s a beautiful piece of jewellery – elegant, but impossible to ignore, and somehow old-fashioned but timeless. The opal flashes between opacity and iridescence in a way that always makes me think of Granny herself – startlingly witty but always bone dry.
It means a lot to me that the ring is a gift that keeps being given. It is connected with Granny, but I was lucky enough to have it given to me by my beloved auntie, who was able to pass it on while telling me how much it meant to her, and how much I mean to her. Olivia, my mum’s sister, doesn’t have children, but she’s always been a powerful loving force in the lives of her nieces and nephews. I’ve always treasured our relationship and found such comfort in the fact that I can confide in Olivia when I’ve needed someone to listen without judgment.
I’m not sure that I want to have children of my own, but I love being Penny’s auntie and I feel honoured to have her in my life and have the chance to watch her grow up. My bond with Penny has given me a deeper insight into my bond with Olivia. The love I feel for Penny is sometimes overwhelming. I know that I will always be on her team. While I’ll have to fight the urge to give her everything she wants, I hope that I'll always make her feel loved and listened to.
Penny doesn’t need the ring to know how much I love her and I definitely won’t be presenting it to her before she’s well into her teens and there is absolutely no chance that she’ll try to eat it. In the meantime, I’m going to take very good care of it. Then, when the time is right, I’ll tell her about Margaret. I’ll tell her that she is part of a great legacy of love and that she is the latest in a long line of women who know that there’s an art to telling a mucky joke, to hugging, to drinking red wine with your favourite people around a kitchen table. I’ll tell her that she is the product of people who believe love makes you greater than the sum of your parts. Eventually, I hope that she, too, will get a great deal of joy from giving the ring away.
DAISY'S TOP 5 PANDORA PICKS