Filling In The Gaps

I have yet to find any photographs of the teenage, Doris Rosina Ilson. I know she was born in Poplar and I let my imagination fill in the gaps by watching the BBC production of “Call the “Midwives” I saw my mother in the clothes they were wearing. When I watched the women standing outside their front doors talking with their neighbour it was her voice I heard. Even the children playing out in the street stirred memories of the games I played.

A chalk drawing on bricks of the childhood game, Hopscotch.
Childhood Games in the 1950’s

The Generation Gap

The teenager did her best to push her unruly, dark curls in to place. She knew it was a waste of time and the sleek hair styles of the movie screen actresses would never be hers. She peered intently at her reflection in the large pitted mirror. She searched her face for the smallest indication that a flaw was waiting to erupt and mar her dark, olive complexion. She found none. Although her examination was critical she did not pause to linger on her deep, brown eyes or her wide engaging smile. Why would she? It was imperfection she was searching for. Everything else was taken for granted as her youth dictated.

She wrinkled her brow as she thought of the morning that lay before her. What to wear? The choice was limited by the fact that no matter what she choice someone else would have worn it before her. Being the youngest in the family, “hand me downs” were a fact of life. If she was honest it didn’t bother her that much. As long as they looked alright, who had worn them before wasn’t important. If only the fashions didn’t change before she’d had time to wear them out or grow out of them! What little free time she had was to precious to waste on things she couldn’t change! There were so many other things to enjoy. The 1930’s was buzzing with new dances, American movies and FUN! The future was hers to do with as she pleased. Everyone agreed it was a year of optimism. Even her parents!

Her private meanderings were interrupted by her mother, “Are you comin’ t’day or t’morra, Dolly? With a quick intake of breath she called back, “Do I ‘ave to? She barely had time to draw another breath before her mother called back, “Yes you do my girl!” Grinning back at her image in the mirror she happily accepted that she had lost this round but it was worth a try! Another strident command from her mother to, “Get ya’self moving my girl its half pas’ seven already!” In a seemingly uncontrolled, effortless bound the teenager lept out the door and down the stairs, missing the last three steps to land at her mother’s feet. As if the morning’s chore was of her own making she darted past her mother and out the front door “C’mon then. Let’s get going” she demanded.

Together the two women gazed at each other. One with wry amusement, the other with the impatience of youth. Looking at them, the similarities were not obvious. It would be many years before those who knew them both would make comment that stamina and determination ran in the family. Making the best of any situation with out a hint of self pity or blame were less obvious traits. Both women would make use of them for the future yet to be written.

The elder woman bent low to heft the handles of the old barrow. Resolutely she squared her shoulders and picked a path through the yard out to the street beyond. Beside her the young girl unknowingly mimicked the set of her mother’s shoulders and spoke with controlled feeling, “I’m not yelling out, bring out ya rags!” The mother turned to look at the young girl. She heard the emotion of self pride in her voice. The sound of authority she did not yet realise was hers. She could almost feel the pulsing of the girl’s pent up energy. The facade of bravado almost hid the pleading in the teenagers heart. “All right luv, you can push. I’ll do the rest!”

Has this post woken up memories of your childhood games? Ones with silly names and complicated rules? Share in the comment below to see how many we can remember!

Just Vicki

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