Image by Alain Manesson Mallet
Mr McAllister, the Insurance Man, knocked on our door between five and half past five on the first Monday of every month. My Mother would be making dinner and at his knock she’d rush about to turn off the rings and the pots and the taps and anything else that was on the go. I’d follow her to the door and watch from her side, maybe a little bit back. He was a young man, I know this now, and his hair was black with a side parting and oiled into place. He always wore the same clothes did Mr McAllister. A brown suit, navy tie, brown shoes, a charcoal trench coat. It was probably fashionable at the time. I don’t know. I was six. If it was raining his trench coat would be buttoned up to the neck and he’d be struggling with his umbrella, the silver shaft balancing on his shoulder keeping his hands free for his book and his pen. My Mother invited him into the hall out of the rain sometimes. He might step inside or he might decline.
“Are you sure, now?”
“No, I’m grand, honestly.”
His book was rectangular and it had this clear plastic cover for protection which it needed for the book was stuffed with all sorts of important bits of paper, some folded, some with rips. His pen was fancy and black and he wrote secret things in his book when my Mother handed him a note in the old money. He always smiled. He always said Hello to me just before I’d hide behind my Mother’s legs. He never stayed long.
When my Mother opened the door to Nana there she’d be with her hand out. She’d say, “Any money for the poor? Just make sure it doesn’t rattle.” We’d always laugh. We loved Nana.
Then there was the day when Mr McAllister saw Nana’s picture up on the wall. The one of the two ladies. “You should insure that.”
“Are you sure?”
“But if it was stolen or worse? Think about it anyway.”
My Mother fretted for, I know now, four weeks but in the day of the old money it was forever. Nana had the picture of the two ladies in the hall of her house when she was six. It was all my Mother requested from the family and it was all she got. A great thing to have following such a bad thing. But peace of mind costs. My Mother didn’t give Mr McAllister more and he shrugged and it didn’t anger him which I think was very nice.
Sometimes, when things were quiet, my Mother would say “It’s worth something, maybe we should sell it.” And I’d say, “No, Mammy, no! Not our two ladies!”
Then I turned eighteen and my Mother asked me if we should continue with my life insurance or cash it in. I cashed it in. My Mother cashed hers too. We bought a fine, fine frame.