One of the easiest, and most enjoyable relationships in my life has been with my granddaughter, Laverne. Now she is eighteen with the world her oyster, I like to think that I had a small part in creating magic in her life, for I have taught her from birth that she has a big part in realising her dreams. So I stand back and watch her fly. I see from her blog that she is in New Orleans, as she couch-surfs across the States with a friend. She’s having the time of her time and I bet her friend is too; Laverne is the best company in the world. She is creative, funny, open, honest and generous. We speak the same language, even when we don’t use words.
I’ve always been clear about my brief as a grannie. It is to have fun and to pass on good recipes. I’ve always had fun with Laverne, from the time we kept an octopus under the sofa, to the two weeks we spent in New York, when she was sixteen, rustling up all sorts of magic. She thinks I’m a cool grannie and that, for me, is as good as it gets.
When she was a year old I wrote her letters from India, where I was travelling alone, trying to sort myself out. Not to be read then of course( even darling Laverne wasn’t that advanced). In them I promised I would take her there when she was sixteen but as she grew it became increasingly obvious that New York would suit better, so that’s where we headed when she was sixteen. We had two weeks in a boutique hotel in Chelsea called The Inn on 23rd, just around the corner from the Chelsea Hotel and boy did we work that city.
We caught our flight giggling over the fact that I’d brought the book and she’d brought the DVDs of Sex and the City. We walked everywhere the first week and did none of the tourist sites. Ours was a vintage trip and we found street markets and stalls, most memorably The Garage, where I found a divine 70s Giorgio di Sant Angelo shawl and resisted a Bill Blass opera coat on the pathetic grounds that no one dresses for the opera any more. In the evenings we went to the Chelsea cinema, which showed vintage films or we sat in our cosy boutique room eating pizzas which Laverne got from Ray’s up the road, watching Sex and the City. Twice we saw places we had been that day on the screen and screamed our excitement. Later Laverne told me how cool it is to have a Grannie who doesn’t get embarrassed about sex. I tell her sex is great but not until one’s cervix has fully matured.
Before we went, I spent some time meditating on the possibility of something magical happening for Laverne as a universal acknowledgement of the fact that her arrival in the world had helped to sort out some problems I was having. Well, how about this as an example of the power of prayer.
One evening we were heading to the Paris cinema and got lost to the right of Central Park. The street was empty and the map was unclear, then I looked up and saw a young man coming along the street with a large bunch of flowers. I was going to ask him the way but Laverne was in there first. Imagine my surprise when, having been told where the cinema was, Laverne said how much she had enjoyed him in Half Nelson. It was her favourite film star Ryan Gosling. I couldn’t get her off the ceiling for days. Now she knows for sure that her Grallie’s magic works.
We had other great experiences, met loads of interesting creative people at the hotel; went on the floor of the stock exchange, between Bear Sterns and Lehmann Brothers and caught the whiff of fear; spent an hour with the charming and other- worldly Edward Bess in Bergdorf Goodman’s make-up basement and ended up buying some fabulous lipsticks, one each.
I am sure that as we both grow older that two weeks together will deepen in colour and meaning. It was a time that can never be repeated, when everything else was put on hold and the two of us experienced a magical time in a city that fully lived up to our dreams. For me the outstanding memory was trailing behind a sparkling sixteen year old, walking tall in her high heels and flirty skirt and calling Taxi! at the curb, then the two of us collapsing in giggles at the sheer drama of it all, as we headed back to our sumptuous B&B in Chelsea.