When I was a little one…(that was the 1980s, in case you were wondering) before mum learnt to drive…I remember our shopping trips for the weekly family food supply. Mum would often make a whole day trip out of it. I remember our trips vividly.
We would walk down the hill into town heading for the local indoor shopping centre. I remember my baby sister Milly was in the Victorian pram, which mum hardly had to push on the trip downhill, more hold onto so it didn’t run away. Meanwhile, me and my other younger sister Mandy would skip along running in and out of bushes and balancing along kerbstones all along the way.
Whenever we entered the ground floor of the shopping center, I remember an almost blue layer of smoke that hung above us…so many people used to smoke cigarettes inside the shopping center leaving a lingering stench and smog. Whenever we passed too near people puffing on their cigarettes, my sister and I would deliberately explode into hysterical coughing fits to try to make the smokers feel guilty. We would be marched by mum right through to the opposite side of the shopping centre and back out into fresh air.
The first venue we would visit was the town library. We possibly stayed there for hours. It was a great idea for my mum to take us. A quiet place for mum and baby Milly…and endless entertainment in the form of colourful books and other children for me and Mandy. When it was time to leave, we were allowed to borrow up to 6 books each to take home.
If it was a long day out mum would sometimes buy a bag of chips from the local chippy (fish and chip shop) …which was beside the public swimming baths. Then we would sit on the rocks……I don’t know how to explain this public monument to nothing which was an incredible playground for us to challenge our agility – dangerous when I think about it. Oh, we had so much fun climbing and playing hide and seek there while mum looked after Milly. There were usually plenty of other mums and children.
The main purpose of the trip was of course to buy food for the family. Mum had to take us back into the smoky shopping centre and up to a supermarket named Presto or Prestos. It has long since disappeared. Mum would load up the trolley with the basics for feeding two adults and 7 children. We tried to help. There was a food trolley and a Victorian pram to safely steer around the store. I do remember some mishaps…I was not quite tall enough to be in charge of either pram or trolley, but I had to take one of them. I often bashed into other shoppers or clipped their feet. It seemed to take all my might to control either. Sometimes mum would just have to park up the Victorian pram near the cashiers with me in charge while she whizzed round loading up the food trolley.
Anyway…once the shopping was paid for, it was time to head home.
Mum would tie the shopping bags to all parts of the Victorian pram. The hard part of the trip out was going to be getting all of us back up the hill. The Victorian pram was now very heavy and mum had to push it up hill all the way home. But it would be more difficult to motivate Mandy and I to trudge back up the hill…I do remember us both sulking and pleading to be allowed to squeeze into the pram with our baby sister.
To motivate us, my lovely mum would buy us a treat from a bakery named Duncans. The treat was an iced finger. We would munch our iced finger and normally it would last us all the way to the top of the hill. Those iced fingers were such a welcome treat.
One day, a wasp landed on the other end of my iced-finger. I dropped it onto an area of the pavement with leaves and rubbish and dirt. Mum would not let me pick it up to continue eating. I cried all the way home.
One day, Mandy and I had been squabbling and had been misbehaving in in the shopping centre. Mum was close to becoming impatient. I know my mum was a bit of a softy on the whole, but that day she tried to be tough. She warned us that because we had been naughty we would not have a treat from Duncan’s bakery. Well, Mandy and I were rather cheeky and threatened mum that if we did not have a treat we would refuse to leave the shopping centre. Mum told us she would have to leave us then as she had to take the shopping and baby Milly back home. She told us she would have to send Dad down when he came home from work to take us home. Mandy and I grew quiet as we knew Daddy would be cross to learn we had misbehaved. We walked along quietly.
Suddenly we looked around and Mum had vanished! I immediately concluded she had been true to her word and left us on our own. My little head was full of panic. However, I also recall trying to work out what was the most logical thing to do next. There was a police-man nearby. I told Mandy that we should approach him. There we were, a five-year old with her three year old sister telling him that our mother had abandoned us because we had been naughty. He told us to stay with him.
A few minutes later mum came rushing over with the pram. She was full of anxiety. We had not noticed she had turned into Duncan’s bakery to buy us iced-fingers. It had shocked her when we were not in our normal waiting place which was just outside the bakery window pressing our noses to the glass as we eyed up all of the colourful cakes and fruit tarts.
What a lovely mum I have.
If you are reading this Mum…I love you. I have so many wonderful memories of my childhood with you! I am deeply grateful you and dad gave us life and taught us wonderful things about life. You showed us how to be happy and healthy. Thank you for all of your hard work caring for so many children. Sorry for all the hard times we gave you, all our squabbling and being naughty and coming home covered in mud. You and dad have set an incredible example for us in countless ways. Thank you for all the iced-fingers Mum. I love you Mum!