She made a bee line for me from the other side of the road where she had been taking photos of our silo art.
She said, “I have just heard on the radio that if you trim them back you will get more flowers.”
From my muffled, bent over position I said “That’s what I’m doing.” and emerged to see a smiling, very well dressed woman beaming at me from the deserted street. Our conversation started with my rose garden. Then we discussed many things, life in general, the Covid 19 pandemic in depth, anti vaxxers, demonstrations, and the fact that people hadn’t really had anything to demonstrate against since our involvement in the Vietnam War.
She said we had been privileged to be comfortable during lockdown but it must have been so hard for people in poorer circumstances who only spoke English as a second language and couldn’t understand.
There is something special about communication with a stranger who you will never meet again; the ‘ships that pass in the night.’ We could exchange our opinions honestly and be listened to without prejudice.
She quietly asked the leading question. “Did you work here in this small town?” “No, I was a nurse.” She gave a delighted shriek and also pointing to herself, said “I knew it! I knew as soon as you spoke
Our conversation switched to nursing and back to Covid again. I said the conditions of home schooling were not as bad for children as they were for us in the Second World War. I spoke of silent school children being marched into the trenches. We sat quietly in the dirt in air raid shelters with wooden clothes pegs in our mouths for an hour during Melbourne’s weekly air raid practise. Of fathers being away for years and of not knowing when we left home each morning if we would see our Mother again that day. Plans were in place for the school to be evacuated at a moment’s notice if there was an air raid. Life was very uncertain for us, but we were happy and resilient and accepted it without question because it was all we had.
She asked where this was. When I said the Melbourne suburb of Black Rock, there was another delighted shriek. She had also been a child at Black Rock. We knew where each other had lived. We lived in Middleton St which is off Bluff Rd. Her great grandparents had settled in Black Rock when Bluff Rd was just a dirt track.
She had lived in Red Buff St. I laughed and said “I nearly drowned off the Red Bluff when I was seven. We had been told not to swim there because it was dangerous, so of course we never told our parents what had happened!”
In an instant we were transported back to our childhood days. She was younger than me and we were there at different times. Now for both of us we were young friends in a meeting of childhood minds. We had swum at Half Moon Bay. We went to school at Black Rock and Sandringham
It was a case of do you remember. Do you remember the chook farm? Yes, it was in Tulip St. Her daughter trained as a nurse at the hospital in Sandringham where she had also worked. My mother worked as a volunteer at a small stall at Sandringham station to raise money to build that hospital.
She told me how happy she felt whenever she thought of her childhood at Black Rock. Her husband approached looking a bit bewildered. When he heard that we both spent our early years at Black Rock he understood.
Reluctantly she left, exclaiming at our chance meeting and I smiled for the rest of the day. I have no idea who she was. Life is like a jigsaw puzzle and the older we get the more pieces fall happily into place.