In a previous post called Tick Tock-Tick Tock-Tic-Tic Ti- I talked about how so much of life passes by unseen, due to the fact, or otherwise, that we are always short on time. In that post I talked about observing the interaction between a cat and a boy, and the bond that was formed between the two. I thought that such a topic was done and dusted, but not so, as my wife, on re-reading the post turned round and quietly stated
“what about the woman paddling in the sea; why isn’t she mentioned here?”
What indeed about the woman paddling in the sea. We both saw her several months ago, and my wife was right to give me an abrupt reminder, for, to my shame, she had briefly drifted from my mind.
Why is she so important, you might be wondering, as you read this post that lies before you; after all, doesn’t everyone, at some point, and given the opportunity, paddle in the sea. My answer to such a question would be yes, and by itself such an action might have been unimportant, but as we watched her we realised she was in a world, a silent world, that had a language,a power, and a history, all of it’s own
What was that world I wondered, did it have a name, did anyone walk with her, or talk to her as the incoming tide nibbled at her ankles and toes. As writers and bloggers we seek ideas from the world that lies around us, but how many of us stop long enough to notice these silent worlds as they humbly pass us by. This post has, in part, been created for the Weekly writers Challenge: Characters that Haunt You, but it is also a post written in memory of a woman, just ordinary woman by the seashore, and a reminder,for all of us writers and bloggers, to slow down a little, so that all such world might be seen
What did I make of the lady? A short story called Paddling in the Sea, the final scene of which you see before you now.
In essence the story revolves around a mothers inability to accept the loss of her son in battle. She is so deep in denial she paddles in the sea, and as she is paddling her son comes back to see her. Her son is dead though, he is only a figment of her imagination, a fact brought home to the reader though the eyes of a child with his mother, who sees her standing alone in the sea.
We join her as she is settling down to have her supper, and All I can say is “enjoy”
…Lilly cleared away the tea things, and after briefly, very briefly, thinking about the little boy who cheerfully waved at her; she settled down in her favourite arm-chair that sat before her sweetly scented and softly crackling apple wood fire.
Looking around the room, her life, in faded photographs and pictures, hung silently all around her, yet to her they still seemed to be alive. They almost seemed to reach out and comfort her, and then to whisper her name.
Once she had been a lively child, once she had been blond haired attractive young woman, and once she had been a dreamer of dreams. Then she had been a proud mother, and at the centre of a wonderful family, but was feeling old and tired now. She had grey hair, a sore back, and her eyes were aching. Sadly her once happy days seemed to be slipping away with every outgoing tide. Fresh tides also came in though. When they came in they sometimes brought in old songs and memories , so she still hoped that, somehow, those carefree days might return.
A log slipped and nearly fell out of the fireplace and in doing so it brought her back to the room, and to life around her. After a moment’s hesitation, and an adjustment to the fire that burned before her, she opened a polished wooden box that lay on a small coffee table carefully positioned by her.
The box contained a framed signed photograph of a young man in naval uniform, a World War 11 medal and ribbon, an old letter, and by the letter a neatly folded yet stained and faded telegram.
Placing the photograph beside her, she picked up and opened the letter and the telegram. She read them both slowly. Then she folded them up very carefully, before putting them down from whence they had lain.
Killed in action,the War Office telegram bluntly stated.
A Japanese air attack, a brave death, saving the lives of others, hence the medal, his commanding officer had written; but then what did the officer, or the war office, know?
Joe was a good lad and would never leave her, and apart from when she was sleeping, Joe would always be by her side.
It was bedtime though, and Joe had left her, she’d watched him from the front parlour window as he’d walked out and the greeted some of his crew
“My ship is sailing in the morning mother”. He had told her. “I know I shouldn’t tell you, but we’re heading off to the pacific. It should be pretty warm down there!”
She had watched him and his shipmates silently marching, down the road towards the railway station.
She wasn’t bothered though. It was late, Joe had said upon leaving her, and it was well past her bedtime.
One day, she hoped, Joe might become an officer in the Royal Navy, so now she was only too happy to do her duty, and obey.
She would sleep well though, as she knew he would be with her over breakfast. Joe was always with her when she had her breakfast. Then, after breakfast, they would go paddling, just paddling in the sea.