It’s been over twenty years since I last looked into those beautiful blue eyes, since I last hugged my darling aunty Kay. Today was her birthday but I have never needed the calendar to remind me of this wonderful lady.
Kay was a GI bride. Just 22 when WWII began, she signed up to join the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and became a teletype operator. She never talked very much about the war years. I think people who lived them preferred to forget most of it.
Kay was always besotted with dogs. She also had her own ideas about rules and regulations. So even though she was a WAAF, and dogs were not allowed in the barracks, Kay had a black cocker spaniel called Minxie.
Kay was on a bus one day, with Minxie as always, and a young American airman sat next to her and befriended the dog. Smart move, of course. Very soon, Kay was engaged, but her fiance, Ray, was dispatched to France and as I understand it, Kay had been engaged before, so I’m not sure how seriously she took the situation.
Ray, however, was a determined man. Somehow he secured a pass to get back to England, and before she knew it, Kay was walking down the aisle. She didn’t even have time to tell her family. They were not impressed! Minxie, however, was part of the proceedings, but my aunt was heartbroken that even she could not wangle permission to bring her dog to the States. Minxie stayed behind with Kay’s best friend.
As a strange aside to the story, Kay and Ray spent their honeymoon night at the Grosvenor Victoria Hotel in London. I don’t remember the room number, but she did. 25 years later I went, co-incidentally to that hotel myself, and was assigned the self-same room number. When I described it to her, she said she was sure it was the same room. It had been updated since the war, but not all that much!
Once married, Kay was discharged from the WAAF and was given passage to New York on a ship that crossed the Atlantic in a convoy. Sometimes depth charges were launched, but the war was nearing an end and she arrived without incident.
Because Ray was not yet back in the States, his mother came to meet Kay at the dock. She was not pleased that her son had married, and in her opening words, she offered to pay Kay’s return to England if she would divorce him. Some welcome!
For some weeks Kay lived, unwelcome, in a strange country where she did not know a single other person. She had left her family who were upset at her sudden departure, and she had been forced to leave her beloved dog. But Kay’s less than ideal arrival was forgotten when Ray came home, and soon there was a Minxie2.
Fast forward to 1964. Kay and Ray were living on Long Island, but they had not been able to have children. At that moment in time, my father decided to leave his job and start life again with no particular plan, in the West Indies. I was 16, and in no position to enter the workforce in Britain, where I was a virtual stranger. I was interested in continuing my education. Next thing you know, I was off to live with Kay and Ray.
I’ve often wondered how Kay felt, at the age of 47, to find herself suddenly responsible for an unknown teenage girl. It is certainly not something I would ever have entertained! We had a brief visit when I came for Christmas of 1963. I remember being appalled that people here were no longer in mourning for their slain president. In England we had been deeply shocked by his assassination.
However everything in New York was very cheerful. I was spoiled with gifts and good things. Kay and Ray had two new cocker spaniel puppies for me to make a fuss of. But mostly, I remember sweet, lovely Kay. I fell in love with her then and she became my best and dearest friend. It seemed that I was done with boarding schools and was going to have a home……