Unbidden- Behind the garden wall

February 3, 2011 at 5:09 pm 5 comments

Bash Street Kids - Beano Comics

The neighborhood bunch- mostly boys- I really can’t remember any girls except for my friend Helen. We were the tear-aways of 5 and 6 year olds. It was a different time then- mum’s were housewives and the “avenue” became our playground. We were sent “out” to play. We roamed from back garden to back garden, visions of mums with aprons usually drying their hands appearing at front doors to “check” as we “roamed our territory, the older ones keeping an eye on the “babies” among us.

Looking back on those times they were good times- a time of innocence. The Anderson Shelters that had protected our parents from the blitz became our forts to be protected, coal bunkers – great hiding places if somewhat filthy with coal dust .

Helen ( whose parents were Jewish and had escaped from the Nazis ) and I being girls and the weakest usually ended up being “the bad guys, the robbers to the boy cops , the Indians to their cowboys the Germans to their English”. We had no choice we were outnumbered and male egos prevailed at even such a young age 😉

However, we sissy girls learned to hold our own in those formative years and there were times when the Indians outsmarted the cowboys, the robbers got away with the loot but the English always won – even we dared not let the Germans get away with anything or ever win a battle – our patriotism made us vulnerable we always “gave up and surrendered”.

There was one house on the street that we dare not play or invade as our games progressed up and down the avenue . It was not that it was spooky or derelict, in fact it was the same as all the other houses on the street. The front garden behind the garden wall was always awash with colour and beautiful roses.

No! it wasn’t the house as such that made us uncomfortable it was the woman who lived behind the garden wall. There was something not “normal”- something not quite right. She looked ordinary enough, her hair was greying but she wasn’t so very old ( as I remember now) but to a five-year old someone who must have been in her late 40’s was ancient.

When we tired of being the “bad guys” Helen and I would retreat to our dolls and mud pies and making “perfume” from flower petals- much to the annoyance of the boys. Even they though would not venture over the garden wall to gather the fallen rose petals from the house with the “strange lady”. She was one female who frightened even the toughest among them.

Then one day spying a great number of fallen petals of all sorts of colours, just right for the mixing of our special brand of perfume – I opened the gate and walked the path ( which seemed so long although it was just a matter of a few feet) to ask if I could have the petals.

She answered the door with a puzzled look finally lowering her gaze to what must have been a somewhat disconcerting sight – a golden-haired , grubby little girl who was asking for rose petals for perfume . I wonder what she thought at that moment ?

I remember her smiling and telling me to have all the rose petals I wanted and if I was careful of thorns I could take some roses to my mummy.

After that I would be at her house , playing behind the wall when the boys got to be too much like boys. I was safe they were too frightened to enter and see what was behind the wall.

Later I learned the lady scarcely ever left her house and garden. She had lost both her husband and her children in the war – she too was escaping behind the garden wall.

I think that I can identify with my “strange lady” you see she is no longer strange – but I also realize there is no escape from grief- it comes unbidden. We, who grieve a loss of their child live in the past and present. All the advice and why you are doing this and why this happening to you only helps until you are blindsided by the unbidden.

The past few days have been especially “dark” I can’t think of another description for the feeling. I am sure some “head Dr.” could diagnose my condition.

I try to avoid triggers and situations in these hours of “dark”. They are the days when you dread the night because as bad as the day is with its overwhelming loneliness and heartache you know that sleep will have to come eventually and your brain will work in such ways that the night will be one of torment.

But it does no good to wrap yourself in the armour of self- protection; the mere act of walking around the dining room table to plug a cell phone into its charger (as you have done night after night for many years) can without warning, transport you back instantly to walking around that dining room as you tried to ease the “labour pains” the night your son was born.

The parallel world comes unbidden and your night will be one of tears that fall as rose petals behind a garden wall.

Entry filed under: Brit take, Chris Ritchey, death, grief, Love, Mothers, personal opinion. Tags: , , , .

Nancy Smith- “Reasonable Doubt” Historical Hysteria and again it is all in a word :)

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. prayersfromthepeanutgallery  |  February 3, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    This is such a beautiful post; such engaging writing. I don’t know the story behind the post, but your writing absolutely transported me.

  • 2. Lisa  |  February 6, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    I am grateful for my garden wall, especially on those darkest of dark days. There is no safer place to be.

  • 3. Lisa  |  February 9, 2011 at 12:31 am

    The world may never notice
    If a snowdrop doesn’t bloom,
    Or even pause to wonder
    If the petals fall too soon.
    But every life that ever forms,
    Or ever comes to be,
    Touches the world in some small way
    For all eternity

  • 4. The Wall- not Facebook- « That Woman’s Weblog  |  April 11, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    […] My husband has been complaining for ever about the totally feminine decoration of our bedroom. I admit to flowery curtains , the four-poster bed with the fru – fru hangings, roses and flowers galore- well we know why the roses right? […]

  • 5. Richard Deem  |  June 17, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    Interesting to say the least and I am sure we all have those garden walls. I remember the Anderson shelters all to well.we also used to play on the roofs of 2 shelters in the school playground jumping between the two but that was usually a boy thing. I often wonder who built them and how long it took. That’s when we were being boys and not making the girls life uncomfortable but they always forgave. Wonderful times in this day and age I don’t think the youngsters can appreciate.

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