Saturday, November 03, 2007

Gratitude, Day Three: Surrey's Story

I am blessed with storytellers. I am blessed by those that will take the time to sit and share a bit of their life.

I was moved to tears today by the story a friend told of her childhood in England during WWII, of her evacuation from Bristol at about my daughter's age to a farmhouse in the countryside, where she lived with a man and his wife who detested one another and never spoke and the time she spent there, seeing bombs fall on the city where her parents were, not knowing whether they were alive or dead and no one to go to for comfort or solace.

After the war, her extended family pooled their ration cards for petrol so her parents could drive out to the farm to collect her.

She spoke of that first Christmas after the war, in London, reverting to her six year old self, the American tones of her voice fading as her child-self came out to talk of the wonders she saw. The lights bright after so many years of blackout curtains. The crowds of people in the streets. People still living in tube stations who had lost everything they had. Children her own age, bedraggled and dirty, scavenging along the Thames during low tide and among the bombed out buildings for anything they could sell. Shopkeepers taking to the streets with their wares in barrows or with tables set in front of their unusable shops.

Children were back in London for the first time in years, she said, and they were greeted with joy. Class lines were erased as strangers called out to one another, wishing the best of the season to rich and poor. A fruit seller gave her a banana as a gift, her first, and she bit into it like an apple, skin and all, not knowing it first had to be peeled.

A fishmonger, selling cockles and winkles and eels, reaching into his basket and pulling out a live eel, slitting it head to tail before her very eyes and cutting off a piece of the raw flesh to give to the wide-eyed, awe struck Surrey.

"My first sushi," she said. "It was salty and sweet all at once and tasted of the sea and freedom."

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