A GIFT FOR A PRINCESS.
On a glorious April morning, Elizabeth stands in a field of Bluebonnets in Austin, Texas. She accompanies her daughter’s family, and watches as her daughter and son-in-law attempt to arrange their three children into photographic poses. The bluebonnets are spectacular and stretch in a carpet of waving vibrant blue under a clear cloudless sky. Elizabeth can see other groups going through the same antics. Her family seem to be having the most trouble. Their problem is that the toddler wants to toddle and pull the blue blossoms while his sisters want to dance and swirl in their pretty dresses Not one of the three can be induced to stay still with a smiling face long enough for a photograph. The girls giggle and squirm, their voices are loud and happy. They proclaim to the world that they are princesses.
Elizabeth lets her mind wander. She goes back in time and space to her youth in Durham City in the UK. To the time when she and her younger sister were the same age as her two dancing granddaughters. She remembers that they also, thought of themselves as princesses. They lived in a large imposing house named “Hillcrest.” It stood on the top of one of the hills surrounding the City. Hillcrest was their palace and its extensive garden their palace grounds cascading down the hillside into the valley below.
She recalls the time of the birth of their brother when their mother sent her and her sister on a special errand to buy eggs at the general store in May Street located at the bottom of their garden. She immerses herself in their willingness as they descend the zig/zagging garden terraces of Azaleas, herb gardens, a lawn and, towards the bottom, a beech tree woodland. It is the end of April, and the ground under the trees is covered in bluebells. The damp woodsy smell of the ground rises wrapped in the distinctive scent of bluebells. Streams of sunlight dapple the ground serving to enhance the impact of the bluebell carpet. Elizabeth’s eyes are now closed, and she is there as her youthful self, enchanted in a magical glen.
At the bottom of the bluebell woodland is a gate. The girls open the gate and emerge into another world. The world of May street is one of poverty and hard surfaces, the only green, an occasional weed, thrust through a crack in the sidewalk. Rows of identical red brick attached houses stand, each with a front door opening direct into the narrow sidewalk. The two-up two-down homes have tiny rear yards in which their out-houses are located. The aromatic air of the woodland behind the gate is replaced by the combined smell of smoke from the chimneys and the stench of human waste. Elizabeth’s memory does not take her to the store or the egg purchase, she only recalls their return to the gate.
Although Elizabeth’s youthful self was sure that they had fully closed the gate it now stands ajar. They hastily pass through and make sure that it is securely fastened. They are happy to leave the hard-unyielding poverty of May Street to reconnect with the enchanted bluebell woods. They are astonished to hear the cry of a baby and momentarily wonder whether their mother and their new-born sibling are about to appear. Elizabeth remembers the sickly whimper of their new-born. She instinctively knows that the cry that they now hear is not the same baby. She recalls her mother murmuring regretful words, Down’s syndrome, major heart defect, death. Young as she is she wonders whether the errand to get eggs from the May street general store was an excuse to occupy her and her sister while their parents tended to their dying baby.
The lusty cries of a healthy baby demand attention. Elizabeth and her sister morph from princess to pharaoh’s daughter. They look up the slope and see the bluebell ground as the River Nile. It cascades down the slope in waves of billowing blue. They see a baby basket placed close to their path. They scan all directions to see if there is someone accompanying the baby. There is no-one, no sound, only the wind rustling the treetops. They shout,
There is no response. Elizabeth hands the eggs to her sister and picks up the baby and its basket They hurry up the path, run up the terraces and burst into their palatial home.
Some-one tugs at Elizabeth’s arm; it is her daughter. She reluctantly leaves her reminiscing and returns to the present.
“Mom, time to go. Were you day-dreaming?”
“Yes, dear, the bluebonnets reminded me of the bluebells at Hillcrest.”
“Oh, that’s our favorite story; were you remembering how you and Aunty found Uncle Moses?”
I agree – the happy ones are the best ones to nurture. Of course all stories may be true but only some actually happened!
I guess we all do that. Our grandkids have that capacity to activate memories that had remained hidden until actions of the kids suddenly bring our own similar experiences into focus. Obviously you have some very happy ones 🙂