I was ten years old and running down Great Homer Street at great speed clutching a note from school about the forth coming trip to Chester Zoo.

Mum took the note and read it out loud to my Nan who visited our house every Friday ....Nan listened with interest and pulled out her purse and gave me a half crown and told me to buy myself some sweets for the trip....I smiled to myself as I new Nan would never let me down...Dad was out of work at the time and Mum was really struggling to even pay the rent let alone pay for a school trip to Chester Zoo.

Mum and Dad found the money somehow to pay for the trip and I found myself sitting on a big brightly painted coach clutching the half crown my lovely Nan had given me...I new my Nan would do without something so that I would have some spending money and no matter how hard you tried to give it her back she would not take I made up my mind to buy Nan something really special from the gift shop when we got to Chester Zoo.

The coach pulled up at the Zoo car park and a noisey bunch of excited school kids charged forward before being restrained by some worried looking teachers.

The animals seemed better behaved than this bunch of scruffy urchins as we charged from cage to cage...teasing the monkeys...throwing things at the lions and laughing as the gorrillas made threatening gestures at us all.

We all finally arrived at the gift shop and each of us produced our spending money...most of the kids had a pound or a ten bob note and swooped on the sweet counter and proceeded to buy every sweet in sight.

I on the other hand found myself standing on my own in the corner of the shop contemplating what I could buy my lovely Nan...I wanted to buy her something that would show her just how much I loved her.

I looked around to see what my 2s 6p would buy.... and there it was on the second shelf...A beautiful ceramic Crocodile with a mercury temperature guage on its was the most fantastic thing I had ever seen.

I reached up and took my crocodile down from the shelf and proudly marched thru the sweet eating crunching munching mob of school friends and placed it on the counter..."That will be 2s 11p please " said the shop assistant.

I proudly presented my half a crown to her and she took it and then held out her hand saying that I needed another five pennies to make it to 2s 11p.

"I havnt got anymore money missus...that's all Ive got"

"Well that's not my fault...its 2s 11p and half a crown is 2s will have to put it back"

I could hear myself crying and the other kids started laughing at me..."please miss...please miss...its a present for my Nana...please miss...

I wouldn't move from the spot and kept on begging the lady to let me have that beautiful crocodile...after all I had set my heart on it...and my lovely Nana deserved it.

"wait there " said the lady as she disappeared to the back of the shop.
It seemed an eternity before the lady appeared again " so its for your Nan "
"yes I replied"
The lady pulled out her purse and slowly counted out five pennies and put them in the till with my half crown...she then wrapped up my crocodile and gave it to me with a wink and I run off as fast as I could.

On the way back home I became the most popular kid on the coach as each child held the crocodile and watched in amazement as the temperature rose
on the gauge on the crocodiles back.

Friday came and I couldn't wait to give my Nan her special present.
"did you have a good time at Chester Zoo" Nan asked.
I gave Nan the package and as she unwrapped it she asked what it was...I told her it was a present and Nan said I should have spent the money on myself as that was what she gave me it for.
Nan took off the last bit of wrapping paper and said what a lovely present the crocodile was and gave me a big hug and a kiss.

The next week we visited Nans and there above the fireplace was the crocodile in all its glory telling us all what weather to expect and the temperature on the day.
As the years went by the crocodile became a feature...privy to all the conversations...parties...births ...christenings and birthdays a family has and on every visit I would look out for it.

As I grew up into a teenager the little crocodile became less noticeable to me as I had the big bad exciting world to discover...friends to make...places to see.

As the years passed and the time arrived for Nan to leave this life we all gathered around her hospital bed and took it in turn to hold her hand...Nan breathed a sigh and I felt her grip on our hands relax...and we new she had lovely Nan had passed we looked at her face a small tear fell from her eye onto my face as I kissed her goodbye.

A week after the funeral we had to empty her we went from room to room we found memory after memory...old birthday cards...letters...small presents we had bought Nan over the years....all put neatly away in a drawer.

I suddenly remembered the silly little crocodile that I had bought all those years ago from Chester Zoo and laughed to myself at the fuss I had caused in that gift shop...I thought it was the greatest present of all time...and to a ten year old boy the most fantastic thing he had ever seen.
I thought back to the last time I had visited Nan and the crocodile was still hanging in its usual place above the fireplace as it had always been.

I asked Mum if she had come across it while packing Nans things...she replied no... so I resumed my search but to no avail....the crocodile was no where to be seen....and no matter how hard we searched the crocodile remained out of sight...maybe it didn't recognise the ten year old boy that had bought him all those years ago....after all.. that ten year old boy would not recgonise the man he had grown into .....the man who was franticly searching high and low for his Nans special present.....Nans little crocodile was never seen again.

I relise now that as I have grown older and have grandchildren of my own that each little present that my grandkids give me are in there eyes a treasure and in return I treasure them...Its so easy to overlook the small things in life...and yet its the small things that make a life special....and I know now that the last tear that fell from my Nans eyes was not about the journey her spirit was about to take ...but about everything Nan was leaving behind.



By tony flanagan tony flanagan

This story was added on 2nd April 2014

See all of tony flanagan's stories

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