Friday, 19 July 2013

Hanging on

As you may know already we've been staying with my elderly mother-in-law for a few days.  The purpose of the visit was to collect her car -- she's given up driving -- and help accustom her to using her mobility scooter.  It's been a somewhat hair raising experience reminiscent of my children learning to ride without stabilisers.  I was going to add that this recent experience lacked the optimism of that earlier one, however, judging by the look of excitement on her face when getting to the post office proved much less problematic than she imagined, it would be a mistake to think that way.

Our most epic journey took us beyond the post office, past the church and round the corner to visit an elderly friend.  The plan was to stay ten minutes; we were there nearly two hours!  The conversation we had was rivetting.  D. is German, ninety next year, delighted to have company and offered us wine.  She told us her history: the war, her marriages, leaving a child behind to be looked after by her mother, escaping Berlin and her gratefulness when she found acceptance in England.  She told us the most intimate and painful details.  And she showed us photographs too, one of her wedding day, describing her dress as golden.  I must have looked puzzled.  She asked would I like to see it.  Of course.  And folded in a chest, made by a friend who had worked in the theatre, was the golden dress made of what she had had -- fabric for cleaning silver. All hand-stitched,  the fabric crossed over her bosom and was shaped with rows of gathering. The hem and neck edge rolled., brown lacing as a decorative accent at the hip.  The glow on her face said it all.

That conversation will stay in my mind for a long time and I hope we visit again.  What D. told us chimed with books I've read recently, how life's hard times and its precious moments become woven in to all the rest.  Strange how they re-emerge to be shared with virtual strangers.

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