Walking Backwards for Christmas: The Tale of Gramfer (Part 1)

Walking Backwards for Christmas, Chapter 6, Part 7 — Between the Walls: The Tale of Gramfer (Part 1)

Stan and Bethany eventually grew engrossed in a conversation about India. Gramfer signaled me to tiptoe out of the dining room back to the lounge. He sat in one comfy chair, I in one across from him. For a minute, he stared at me intently. Then he spoke.

“It seems I’ve been called home a bit sooner than I thought I’d be, lad. Thought I’d have a bit more time to tell you things before I went. As it is, Reggie, I was supposed to have left this sphere by Halloween, and could only wheedle myself an extension ’til now.

“I don’t know where to begin, or how much it’s reasonable to expect a boy your size to keep in his head. And, after my experience with yer Uncle Roddy, I sometimes think that some of my insight and experience may’ve sat on the shelf too long to do anyone today any good at all.

“So instead, Reggie, let me tell you a tale.”

GramferNow yer gurt-gramfer’s fiddle playin’, tho ’twas a shadow of its former self by the time you came on the scene, could still weave magic like no one else could. Of course, y’d’ve been but a scrap then, too little to remember even that, but – well, everything you’ve ever heard about yer gurt-gramfer an’ the way he played, it’s all true, lad. And years ago, when I was first married to yer grammer, before even yer mum were born, an’ I used to listen to him play that fiddle ….

“It – it wasn’t so much as I was jealous, lad, or that I felt I didn’t measure up because I couldn’t play, but I so wanted to be a part of music like that – not just in the audience, but a participant, a contributor. But it was as far away from reach as the stars. An’ it used leave me low, Reggie, that I wasn’t part of music like that and I knew I never would be.

“Well, ’twas just about the time yer grammer was due with yer mum that he came up to me one evening and handed me this battered old guitar case. An’ inside – inside was the guitar y’seen me play all these years. He concocted this tale o’pickin’ it up from some gypsy, or traveler, or maybe it was a gypsy traveler, who knows. He said with this guitar – although I’d never played properly in my life – if I played this guitar with love and devotion, I’d be able to charm my baby daughter, his granddaughter, to sleep each night, and keep her happy and contented all night long. That would have been enough for me right there, but he assured me that there was more.

“He said the guitar was magic.”

“That, while it wouldn’t give me talent I didn’t have on my own, it’d help me do my best with what I had and to learn to do more. But he also said that whenever I needed magic in my life, to play it and the magic would come to me.

“Well, much as I appreciated the guitar, I thought what he was said was so much hokum. Until yer mum was born. She was a sweet and sunny little bundle but time and again she was a bit colicky. So there were a fair few nights where I was left to stay up with her, while y’ grammer tried t’ get some sleep. And yer poor little mum ’d be cryin’ and wailin’ to no end. There’s naught I could do t’ calm her or quiet her down.

“Then I remembered what yer gurt-gramfer said to me.”

“I picked up that guitar, focused everything I felt for her, how much I wanted t’ see her happy and well again, and I started to play. Well … don’t y’know …’t’ weren’ five minutes on and yer mum was cooing as if there was never anything wrong with her. I picked her up, held her and, not three minutes later, she was blissfully asleep.”

“And so it happened after that, every time as yer mum took sick, an’ I began to think what yer gurt-gramfer’d said mightn’t be such tosh after all. Well I can tell yer, Reggie, what as with the depression on an’ three, then four, an’ then five kids to provide for, and yer grammer not always able to help, I’d times enough to test out what he said. But each time I was at the end o’m’ rope and thought all hope was lost, I’d play that guitar and somehow, something would come along.

“It mightn’t solve the problem as I thought it should, lad, but it would provide the means. A roadmap, of sorts, or an environment that’d lead to the solution.”

© 2014, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.

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G. H. McCallum

G. H. McCallum is author of the Reggie Stone series, the first of which, Walking Backwards for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall, was released on 12 December 2014; look for the second, The Bluebottle Boys, in late spring of 2016. He blogs principally on the 1960s, Victoriana and magic realism.