by Dorothy Cannell
This week I’ve been thinking about my granddaughter Hope, now eleven. I received an e-mail from my editor at Severn House asking if I wished to include a dedication and any acknowledgements for Murder at Mullings. This will be the first in a new series set in an English village in the early nineteen-thirties. It has a January publication date in England and a summer release in the U.S. The acknowledgement was easy – an expression of appreciation to the person who gave me the idea (I’ll write about that in a later blog). The dedication to Hope took more reflection.
She is the youngest of my daughter Shana’s three children. I was present when she was born by cesarean section and will never forget what appeared to be the look of wonder on her face when the doctor held her aloft. Shana had recently been divorced and was completing a nursing program, so the family lived with us until Hope was a year and a half. I look back on that interlude as a magical time. This would not have so, especially where my husband Julian was concerned, if she had been a howling baby or object-smashing toddler. But what she brought was the essence of her name, the sense that a smile could be put on the dreariest day.
Shortly before Julian and I came to Maine Shana and her children moved to Dallas. During our first summer in Belfast the children spent a month with us. I hadn’t expected Hope, now three, to remember us clearly, but she did as if no time had passed. The family arrived by bus, and she bounced off it with arms open wide, beaming with joy. I remember her standing in the bathroom with me one morning during the visit while I blew my hair dry. I had put on makeup, something I don’t do for around the house, meaning we must have been going out somewhere. Hands pressed together she eyed me with pride and awed delight that shot my ego sky high with words I’d never expected to hear at my age.
“Granna, you are precious. Precious!”
Obviously this compliment was one she had heard applied to herself, but rather than just hugging it close, she blissfully passed it on. I told Shana about this, and we both still smile when remembering. In my case this is also because that moment spoke to me about my daughter as a mother – her encouragement of all of her children to be kind, which seems to me to be in so many ways the best of loving.
As is the courage to hold those you care about to account when feeling they may be letting themselves and others down. After Julian and I had been in Maine for four years, Shana got a transfer here with the nursing company she worked for in St. Louis, and for a yeaar she and the children lived in the apartment above our garage. I knew from the start they would not stay in Maine long term, so again viewed having them close as part of the ever changing seasons of life.
I have a friend who caters a dinner each month for a group of which her husband is a member, and when the person who had helped her moved away I took over the job of assistant. This entails getting the tables set, the food put out, and doing the dishes afterward. I not only enjoy this because of the chance to have a good natter with my friend, but take enormous pride in being efficient. Perhaps this is because I haven’t had many ‘real’ jobs.
One late afternoon, when I was about to leave for work Hope addressed me in a surprisingly censorious voice, “Granna, where are you going?”
“To help my friend cater.”
“Is Poppa going?”
“He’s playing bridge.”
“Why are you wearing makeup?” her tone turned frosty. “To wash dishes?” Then came the loaded question. “Will there be men there?”
“Lipstick, mascara!” Piercing silence. Clearly, this time around I was not to hear the words: “Granna, you are Precious!”
I shrugged awkwardly. “Look, you never can tell whose eyes you may meet across a counter piled with dirty dishes.”
“What,” fiercely stern, “about Poppa?”
“I don’t know…he can be a bit of a grump at times.”
Outrage. “I LOVE POPPA! Granna, how long have you guys been together?”
“Over forty-five years.”
“And now,” arms folded, eyes steely, “You’re going to go and ruin it!”
“Hope,” I hugged her, “I was kidding.”
Her face relaxed but clearly she didn’t think much of the joke.
She, along with the rest of her family are now back in St. Louis, but to be with her again I only have to open that book of brightly colored memories in which she features so vividly. Funny, kind, and with a moral compass. What more could anyone ask of a grandchild. A couple of days ago I decided on the dedication of to her in Murder at Mullings. I hope when she looks at it now and in years to come she will know how wondrous a place she has in my heart.