Our house in Gosport was a private let owned by the Dame Elizabeth Kelly Trust which accommodated servicemen and their families who (for whatever reason) couldn’t get a married quarter. It was a small terraced house with a back garden that Tracey was able to play in safely and nearby was a park where we often took her.
After Carol came home we needed to discuss and decide where she and the children would stay until I got a Family Passage (FamPass) and it wasn’t easy; I had to know they were safe and would be looked after but at the same time had no choice but to consider cost. Eventually it was agreed they would stay with my sister Kerrie and her husband Graham in Newcastle; of all of my three sisters Kerrie was the one I was closest to and she was also very laid back which I thought would be good for Carol and the children. Kerrie lived in Rowlands Gill in the same house she had been brought up in as a child. Her husband Graham could appear loud at times but Carol would find that during her stay there he was an absolute diamond whenever problems arose.
Meanwhile in Gosport we had a few days to kill before giving in the house keys and going North during which we made a big fuss of Tracey as she got know her new sister; Carol encouraged her to help her tend Sam’s needs, getting clothes and nappies ready or joining her for a walk while I gave her loads of praise for being a brilliant big sister.
It’s difficult to put into words the mixture of anxiety and excitement we both felt knowing that our lives would be changing in less than a week when I would fly to Gibraltar not knowing when my family would follow; life was very surreal as we continued with normal things.
One of the hardest things for me was Tracey’s bedtime routine, particularly reading her story and knowing that next week I couldn’t and didn’t even know when I could again. (*That particular thought came to me ‘this very evening 13/6/2016’ as I was reading my granddaughter Rhiannon, age 8, her bedtime story – Jungle Book); memories for me are far more powerful than words.
As I look at these (fabulously, yellowy, organic) old photos of those days I’m right back there; I can feel the tension but more importantly I can feel the love and I treasure that. I don’t remember which story I read to Tracey on our last night in Gosport but I do know how I felt when I read it. At the end of the story I kissed her goodnight and said “Tomorrow sweetheart we’re going to see Auntie Kerrie X “.