It was just another visit to see a grand lady, age 99, and after the usual greetings of the welfare of our families and friends we started to reflect and reminisce of life in yesteryear. As usual the conversation was mixed with fun and laughter, but also memories of some dark times.

The following is a recount of some of her reflections:
I remember the Second World War, but not much, just that it happened and some of our people were involved. Back in those days we didn’t readily have access to radio or television or even telephone, so news and information from abroad was not common knowledge amongst some local people. However, life was bearable and we managed as best we could.

It was in 1952 when I had to make a decision that would impact the rest of my life and that of our family. “Go to England and join your husband or you are going to destroy your marriage” is what my father said to me. “I will take care of your children so no need to worry about their welfare”, he assured me.

I was age 28 and never ever thought that I would have to make such a wrenching decision. Darkness descended on the inner core of my mind and I could not see any ray of light, whichever choice I made. My husband had departed, like many others, to seek pastures new in a country where, in theory, was full of milk and honey; a place that would provide a brighter future for our family. The life ahead was largely unknown and difficult to predict but it had a psychological and mystical promise of a more prosperous world. After all, the common belief was it’s a land, England, where its ‘streets were paved with gold’, so things had to get better, was the common expectation.

I had two children, a boy 8 months and 12 days and a girl age 3, so how could I possibly leave them, but it was the love and promise of my father and the thought of loosing my husband that ultimately convinced me to part with my babies. After all I wouldn’t be away from them forever. However, it was gut wrenching, torture of my mind, body and soul. Why me and what does the future hold? When will I see my babies again? The constant questions that crowded my mind brought deep, deep despondency and a feeling of hopelessness.

As the date grew closer to departure everything seemed out of my control and the shadow of darkness deepened in the recess of my mind. It reached a point where I became numb with the thoughts and feeling of how am I going to exist without my children.

I do not recall much of the journey, only that I could not be consoled by anyone throughout the duration of the flight. I cried for hours and hours all the way to England.

The joy and anticipation of joining my husband was at the end of the long, long journey, so I had that to look forward to. I finally arrived in a new world where there were lots of differences such as the climate change, the vicinity and it’s makeup, and of course the people. However, nothing could prepare me for the immediate shock to find that I had to share one room with a total of six people, two married couples and two single people. I was faced with a degrading and mind blowing start to the end of a terrible journey. Why me Lord? Wasn’t it enough that I had to leave my children behind? Yet there I was being made to feel that I was lucky to have a roof over my head. What? Unbelievable.

As I remember, we shared the room by some working at different times of day and night, and it was the common knowledge that if you wanted to start a family and became pregnant you would be thrown out of the room immediately the landlord knew about it; what a world.

I left my country where I was at ease with my existence, free to come and go as I wished and there I was, cooped up like chickens in a pen. My tears were constant because I couldn’t see any light ahead that would take me out of such descending dark times. My husband must have been beside himself because I did not let up, night or day, shedding floods of tears, wanting to see my babies. He ultimately found a room which meant I no longer had to share the inhumane existence.

Having our own room was a chink of light going forward but still no consolation because I was left on my own every day when my husband went to work. I cried morning, noon and night. It was a horrible existence. I felt like I was sentenced for a heinous crime that I did not commit and the penalty was a life of nothingness, no babies, no work, nothing but a drab room of four square walls. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

My only light relief was that I was in an open prison so I could escape from the four walls of my room. So I often went out into the street and walked with one aim in mind, to find a woman with a baby. I did just that, and on occasions I would meet a lady with a baby and I did not hesitate to ask if I could hold her baby. Imagine that, meeting total strangers in the street and approaching them with such a request. They must have thought I was totally crazy and out of my mind. However, I was desperate, in a mentally dark place, and I believe the women sensed my deep inner hurt and empathised as maybe only a mother could.

I would hold the baby for as long as I was allowed and the feeling of joy that it gave me was immense. Standing there in the street holding another person’s baby gave me satisfaction, beyond belief, because mentally it felt as if I was holding my own babies.

Years later we were able to accumulate the fare to send for our daughter, who was then age 9. I think she remembered me but I certainly remembered her and it was absolute bliss to hold her in my arms again. Time ticked away slowly because my family was still incomplete. it was another three years before our son, age 9, came to join us, and although by this time my son was like a stranger to the rest of us it felt great to have my whole family with me, finally. Thank you Lord.

My Reflection:

This grand lady’s reflections are a stark reminder of the experiences faced by some generations. As we continued chatting and laughing, putting the world to rights over many other subjects, I too started recounting the years.

I visited Mommy, as I call her, because her son and I met at school, both age 13; our birthdays one week apart. We remain firm friends to this day. He emigrated to the USA many, many years ago but we chat frequently across the miles. My visit with Mommy was one of countless over decades and, incredibly, my friend and I never came close to this conversation with her. Mommy’s reflections, initiated through a casual chat, revealed a most profoundly difficult period of this incredible woman’s life, to myself and more importantly to her own son! Amazing!

I feel absolutely blessed to share, reminisce and reflect over so many years with this 99 year old grand lady.

Many, many blessings Mommy, until my next visit.

By Donald Campbell