Don’t we look adorable? This is my ‘cousin’ Craig and I on the wall of our boarding house (B & B) in Portrush, Northern Ireland. It was my first vacation since we traveled from San Francisco to Europe when I was a toddler. My mum, dad and little Kerry traveled around Europe like hobos before landing in Glasgow at Nana’s house. Dad disappeared back to the USA and that was that. It was hard for my mum, as a separated yet married lady, to get a decent job. She was well qualified but unable to work for a bank (because of her marital status) despite having been a foreign exchange teller in San Francisco.
Eventually she found a strange new career as a Private Investigator for a company that would ultimately be bought out by the Pinkerton Agency. She specialized in corporate retail fraud and was particularly gifted as she could switch accents (from UK to US). She was also as sharp as a whip. At the agency, Mum became life long friends with a lady in a very similar position. She too was separated from her husband, had two young boys and was living with her parents. They bonded immediately with each other and our families. Marie, my mum’s friend, adored my Irish Nana and my mum adored Marie’s mother who was Greek. Ironically both of them found living with their own mothers difficult, which was understandable.
The salary at the agency was below par but they saved up enough money to go to Ireland in 1964. I was 4 and Craig was 5 years old. I think the older brother was 8 years old. We stayed at this lovely three-story house. My mum and I had one room; Marie and the boys had the one next to it. I was at a perfect age; not yet old enough to be intimidated with school and full of exuberant zest. One evening after Marie and my Mum were having a drink in the lounge downstairs, they came up to find me in the middle of the boys’ bed. I am certain they did not invite me…they were well behaved, shy little boys. On another occasion, at the beach, the boys were horrified or amused when I ripped off my swimsuit and rocketed into the waves stark naked. I can remember my mum laughing and chasing me with a towel. This was a regular habit in our house and the phrase my mum used to keep me in line was, “The Moon will catch your bottom!”
Recently I was clearing out boxes and found old birthday cards from my ‘cousins’ when I was 5, 6 and 7 years old. Over the years we went on at least one more joint vacation in Dumfries. My mum and Marie often went on two-week work projects, mostly to Aberdeen and Belfast. They must have loved being alone and yet together. After my mum died, Marie confided in me that Mum had already started drinking too much on their trips. Marie would leave my mum alone with her whisky while she went to bed. There was no alcohol allowed in our house except at New Year.
I don’t think I had come across the photo above until I opened an envelope of my mum’s. It could have been sent after her death. If you look closely at our hands, you can see that I am firmly grasping Craig’s hand in my little paws. We were probably told to hold hands so they could get a cute photo. I laughed out loud, looking at the image, vaguely remembering that I snuck into bed with them. If I was young enough for Tinder, I could have tagged myself…warm, affectionate and dominant! That irrepressible Kerry did not reappear until my late teenage years. Below is a photo of Marie and my mum (right) on an evening out in Glasgow.