Monday, 21 April 2014

Renewal

It's a radiant day. Londoners have shed their winter layering to celebrate the sun. A hand through the hatch of the ice cream van is tirelessly doling out  99s. New leaves are unfurling on the horse chestnuts and my children have torn themselves from their iPods to play Piggy in the Middle in the park.

I drift into small talk with the woman who has spread her rug near ours. I've been struck by her high-spirited affection for her two small boys. We begin with the weather and graduate to jumble sales. Then she tells me how a stranger raped her in her native Zimbabwe. I notice there are knife scars on her cheek. The rape resulted in a baby. Her parents adopted it. They'd always wanted a large family. She was stricken with post-natal depression, but noone diagnosed her despair.

She fled to England to escape her past. Her parents came too, bringing the child. The child closely resembles the rapist and she found it traumatic to look at him.

Now she works as a live-in nanny mothering someone else's children. The family has just moved her from Birmingham to a Home Counties village where she knows noone and where hers is the only black skin.  'It was time,' she says resignedly. 'Time to start anew. Again!'

I want to ask her if she still sees her own child. If she dares hope for another baby or if her past has destroyed her faith in love. But her two blond charges have reclaimed her. She darts off for a game of chase. From a distance she is a carefree figure prancing over the grass in a pink designer dress she'd bought for 40p at the village fete.

The morning has shadowed a little with the trauma that she's shared. So much pain borne so smilingly. And I look afresh at the throngs basking in the spring sun and wonder about the histories hurting inside them. Then suddenly I am inspired by the thought of the courage borne invisibly beneath the mundane. And I am consoled to be reminded that for all of us, like the unfurling trees, there is always time to start anew.


14 comments:

  1. well, just......blimey Anna. You certainly know how to make me stop and think. And all with your wonderful and deft style. Thank you. Just to add a little light and shade, I blogged about parsnips today so am feeling even more humbled by this post. Thank you again.

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    1. You are so very kind. I would probably have blogged about my incipient moustache if I hadn't encountered her, so no need for humility about parsnips!

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  2. Thoughtful post! Everyone has a story it seems. Such despair and then resilience! Renewal indeed! Happy Easter!

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    1. And to you. Yes, I get quite dizzy with the thought of all the hidden stories whirling around crowded places.

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  3. This is a timely reminder for me that no matter what I can see on the surface of a person, there is almost always something I don't know, and often some huge tragedy that a person may be suffering, managing, hiding. What a lovely way to tell such a sad story Anna x

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    1. Thank you. I think we'd go mad if we tried to think about that all the time, but it's salutary to be reminded sometimes.

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  4. This really touched me. I sometimes make up back stories for random people I see in the street or at the park, but this just shows that the truth can be more moving than any fiction.

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    1. I love to do that too. Especially on station platforms.

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  5. Everyone has a story - not always so awful and I do often wonder that people judge so much without asking enough questions. You are one in a million for being able to bring out what is beneath the surface. God bless you xx

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    1. Goodness, you're very kind, but you over-estimate me! That was a one-off.

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  6. Such a powerful post and one that has stayed with me since I read it. Also - did you know it is Blog of the Week on Netmums? :)

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  7. As others have already said, you never know what's beneath the surface of any person you meet. I think this is a powerful lesson to treat people kindly as you never know why they are like they are.

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