The small girl bounced along the pavement, holding her father’s hand and incessantly babbling a monologue on the subject of sweets. The latter was a forceful expression of her preferences for “spongey” sweets with the only deviation being a disapprobation of her friend Emily’s preference for sugared jellies. It was all delivered with an assurance and articulacy her father admired.
“Mushrooms and bananas and shrimps are soft. You should suck them then they melt properly. But the ones Emily likes make your mouth hurt because they’re scratchy”.
She paused briefly to check that her father was listening. He smiled at her so she carried on detailing which sweets she would buy and her future plans for her pocket money, most of which seemed to involve Emily. He smiled again and did not interrupt her.
Years later, she would recall her father’s hand holding hers. She did not see the image in any particular location but she marvelled at the palpable grasp and the sense of comfort which the recollection always gave her; it seemed to be a motif for her childhood. He had always remembered her childish chatter and frequently amused himself (and anyone else who would listen) by quoting her and chuckling quietly at her malapropisms or fervent convictions. He claimed that she had been born opinionated and that he knew from her first cry that she would be a lawyer. She had no recollection of any of his “Little Makeda said…” stories and dismissively thought they betrayed more of his educational hopes for his only daughter than the reality of her speech development. Instead, her memory held tightly onto that clearly defined image of his hand holding hers. Square, capacious palms, slightly rough from gardening or working on the house, yet with pinky pillows of softness at the tips of each finger and at the base of each thumb. Her own little hand was completely overwhelmed and encased by his strong fingers which had a much darker hue than hers and she was fascinated by the crevices on every knuckle opening and shutting with every movement.
At the newsagent, Makeda selected each sweet and placed it reverently in the paper bag. She could hear her father making polite conversation with the man behind the till and caught a glimpse of him in her peripheral vision; she glanced briefly at his hands gently clutching his hat whilst he asked after the newsagent’s family. As she joined them, a momentary shyness crossed over her as she handed over her money and waited for the sweets to be counted and her change to be given. A comforting pressure was placed on her shoulder as she politely thanked the man and took her change.
On the way home, with a mouth full of sugary softness, Makeda regained her fluency and marvelled over the shiny twenty pence piece she had been given in her change.
“We learned about money in school, Daddy. Chinese people invented it. Is this real silver? It looks like it probably is because it’s so shiny. I’m going to do a rubbing when we get home. That’s when you put paper on top of a coin and colour it in and the pattern then shows up. Me and Emily did it but you didn’t see. I’ll show you”.
He smiled and let her carry on talking.