Monday, May 4, 2009
When I was little I used to accompany my mother on neighbourhood visits, and we frequented the cottage of an old widow.
Unfailingly the latter would offer me a glass of lemonade. I always resisted; Mater always urged me to be polite. Our neighbour never listened to either of us. Instead she would pull open rickety cupboard doors, extract a bottle and a glass, and proceed to pour.
The cupboards of our solitary neighbour rarely saw the light of day: indeed, natural light shied away in terror. Whenever the old woman rooted among the cobwebs and the deep, grey layers of dust, I thought she could not possibly find what she was looking for, hoped she would not.
But she did.
Countless times throughout my childhood I perched on the edge of a kitchen chair, shivered, stared into the lemonade and made a wish to be away over the hills.
As my mother and neighbour sank into the sharing of local news I noted with dismay the flecks, the awful floating flecks that were not lemonade and were not meant for human consumption. Hair, dust and tiny, terrible objects I could not identify: they swam and swirled and danced in the liquid; they mocked me, and I was helpless. I could only make futile guesses as to how long the bottle had been squatting on the shelf, how long since the glass had been under a tap.
I was obliged to swallow all of the mixture, but I did so with exaggerated slowness for fear of being offered another.
Only once in all the years was I able to fling the lemonade out of a window into the flower bed below; but the window was so rarely opened that it was hopeless to depend upon it as a means of escape.
My eventual escape route was adulthood; and now the old lady is gone, along with her dusty, humble offerings, her precious fragments of gossip, and the abject loneliness, invisible to the very young, that enveloped an entire house.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 12:04 PM