Thursday, July 16, 2009
Mater once had a day out with a visiting relative, years ago. They explored the shops, then paused to snack on some cream cakes and tea in a little cozy bakery that Mater knew.
The pair perched by the window, a fine vantage point to observe the heart of the city.
They chattered and caught up while the afternoon sunlight twirled on their teaspoons, while people flitted past burdened with shopping bags or shopping lists.
Then a shadow splashed across the tiny table.
Mater and her friend glanced up, and instantly their teacups froze mid air.
Another relative- one who had not been informed of the visiting one's arrival- was peering intensely through the glass, hands cupped around her face. She was scrutinising the array of cakes and tarts on display in the window. She did not expect to see two familiar faces.
The pair inside were stricken twofold: in the first place, the relative had travelled from another country- her visit was therefore significant, as was the fact that nobody had bothered to mention it to the other. In the second place, the cat was about to be out of the bag in the most dreadful way possible, and the meeting that everyone had sought to avoid was imminent.
The disposition of the other relative, being less than cheerful and slightly more than crusty, tended to provide for awkward situations, and family members thought of her as the proverbial landmine. Volatile and bitter as the poor woman was, with never a soothing word for anyone, a verbal clash on the street was the last thing Mater and her companion wanted.
They did not breathe; they twitched not a hair as the older woman stared and squinted, a permanent scowl etched into her features. They were close enough to count the wrinkles on her face.
There was only a thin and unreliable sheet of glass between the horrified friends and certain trouble.
It was a mercy, then, that the woman saw before her nothing but cakes and sugared buns and scones with raisins: for, after a long moment, she turned away and continued her stride along the crooked street. There was no chance she had seen and ignored the pair- the force of her personality and the magnitude of her pride would never have allowed such a thing to happen.
The duo could hardly dare to believe their fine fortune. Shaken and thoroughly rattled by the awful scene, they gathered their belongings, paid for the tea and cakes, and dashed away on the off-chance that their luck was fleeting, that the old lady would realise, half a mile away, that she had noticed something odd- or decided that those cakes looked mighty delicious after all.
How curious that we look and look but sometimes do not see what is under our very noses.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 3:52 PM