When I was a child, there was a little old lady who lived opposite, whom I loved to visit. We called her “Miss Annie”, and she loved me a lot, because I was a year and a half, chubby and bold.
Miss Annie would open her cabinet when my mother took me to see her, and allow me to play with her tiny coffee cups, which I thought were toys. I had no idea what ‘fine bone china, demi tasse’ meant, though my mother’s heart beat faster, every time I tucked these valuable items into two fat arms and ten fat fingers. She visibly winced, as I waddled with them to my ‘tea’ area on the floor, on which there was a special blanket to protect me from a polished, wooden floor.
It was not until I was an adult that I realised why I loved Miss Annie so much; apart from her kindness and generosity, she was the only grown up who did not say, “Careful!” or “You’re too young.” She did not assume I would drop and damage things, and she gave me my first taste of confidence. She was childless, and her joy in my waddling, virtual ‘tea making’ exceeded her love for her valuables. She never even complained about the crumbs I left. Sadly, she died a couple of years after we moved home, all those years ago, and yet I have never forgotten her for the way she made me feel.