My Hopes, Memories and Dreams

The Lavender Pillow

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Many of my childhood memories conjure up images laced with disturbing emotions that leave a cold, isolating imprint in my mind. For that reason, over the years I have unconsciously and almost certainly wilfully swept them aside, the broom of awareness tentatively leaning across their piles of murkiness in the corners.  Although not completely discarded, they are at least out of sight…for now. Episodes of true joy and bliss from my childhood memories are few and far between. Unearthing them typically requires major excavation through my mind. On discovery however, the sensation is comparable to a rebirth of the child within, as I access feelings of innocence and wonder.

One memory from my childhood that gives me such cause for celebration centres on a simple yet loving gesture from an elderly lady who lived in my street. It all came about as a result of the many afternoons I would spend in my street, perhaps as a strategy to escape the tensions inside the home. As I a young child, around the age of five or six, kneeling on my worn and splintered “hand me down” skateboard, I would propel myself along the footpath with my hands. The resulting calluses from paddling along the path left the little pads of my hands rough and sore, but that did not take away from the fun of traversing Michael St., dodging stones and bumpy concrete as I went.

I recall fantasising about the lives acted out behind the various front doors I passed on my way. I distinctly remember the home with the high timber fence painted an austere blue with a grey pebbled pathway leading to the door. My mother disapprovingly remarked that the girl who lived there was encouraged by her mother to “dress up like a model in ridiculously modern clothes”. I was not to know that this focus on “inappropriate attire” would be a theme that would be revisited in the years to come as I grew further into girlhood. The comment however, did little other than to instil an almost envious curiosity within me. I was always on the lookout for the teenager, but strangely she rarely appeared.

Then there was the two-story house with the weather-board extension that had been added as the family grew. I never recall interacting with the two children who lived there; perhaps they may have been a few years older than me or attended a different school. So I was even more deeply shocked, hurt and scared when one day they pelted me with “flour bombs” as I passed. These were small packages of flour encased in plastic wrapping that exploded on contact. I was mortified that they could be so cruel as I hung my white doughy head and sped off down the street to number twenty-six. This was really only one of a very few negative incidents to occur outside of my home but as a very sensitive child, the sense of injustice at having done nothing to provoke the attack sent me into self-imposed confinement to my bedroom for a while.

When I emerged again in the afternoons on my return from a day at school, I became more aware of a pale brown brick house about halfway up the street, with a matching pale brown low brick fence. A steel gate painted white, closed the simple concrete driveway off from the street. Often in the afternoons the old man who lived in the house would stand on the foot path leaning back against the fence, framed by the numerous rose bushes that lined the garden side of the wall behind him. I imagine this was his hour or so of reflection as he watched the world of suburbia pass by. Over time, considering we were the only two people not to rush off and disappear into the mysterious worlds I imagined behind those front doors, we struck up a rapport. I cannot recall what we may have discussed, or if much was said at all. I do know though that he became a comforting figure, ever present and gentle, just like the brown cardigan he would always wear. I knew he had a wife but I did not see her often, only rarely catching sight of her petite, fragile figure as she tended to her roses.

Then one day I must have mentioned that it was soon to be my birthday, for when the day of my birthday arrived, there the lovely old couple were, together at the fence waiting. Leaning in towards me the old lady handed me a small package wrapped in soft purple tissue paper. As I put out my hands I looked up into her face and noticed for the first time the plumpness of her skin and the loving twinkle in her eyes. With nervous excitement I peeled back the paper to reveal a little pillow that had been made by sewing two cotton handkerchiefs together. One was adorned with a red and blue patchwork pattern and the other had a picture of a puppy printed on it. A lovely scent wafted from the pillow and as I raised it to my nose I was instantly absorbed by the meditative effect the aroma inspired.

“It’s lavender”, the old lady explained, a sweet smile radiating from her lips, “Keep it under your pillow and whenever you have a headache or cannot sleep it will help bring calmness to you”

How did she know ? I thought to myself. How did she know I suffered from a terrible inability to sleep that was sometimes accompanied by a pounding in my chest and a strange sensation that felt like stomping footsteps in my head rapidly approaching, increasing in volume and intensity, until I thought my head and heart would explode with the tension? Fascinated and grateful, I thanked her for the lavender filled pillow that would become a treasured and truly soothing accompaniment to the night time rituals I developed to help me escape into a wondrous dreamscape of fantasy; a place that brought me so much relief.

Not long after her loving and knowing gesture, the old lady passed away. I didn’t see the old man in the street as much after this but one day I did tentatively approach him. He told me that each night he would lay his wife’s nightie and dressing gown out on her side of the bed and place her slippers alongside on the floor. Although the admission somewhat overwhelmed my naive understanding of grieving and loss, I was pleased that he had found his own gesture to comfort and soothe him in his time of loneliness.

Reflecting upon the gentle impact this sweet old couple had on my childhood has helped me appreciate that whether we encounter significant trauma in life or even just minor hurdles thoughout our days, we need to cherish and honour the little rituals that we develop to help us survive.

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14 responses

  1. Oh not just the rituals but the love they represent. How lucky ‘he’ and ‘she’ were to have each other. And for you to have connected with them. Who would be so considerate and kind these days in the rush rush rush of modern mainstream life? thank you for another view into your world.

    August 14, 2009 at 3:37 am

    • Yes, that they took the time to even “notice” me had a huge impact upon me then and clearly it is a relationship I have never forgotten or taken for granted. You know I don’t think I ever even got to know their names though…which is a little sad. But maybe it was never relevent in the bigger scheme of things.

      August 16, 2009 at 10:16 am

      • yes, what is indeed ‘relevant’ and really important in the greater scheme–still you all engaged each other in meaningful ways–that’s important–your memory of them and their gift –consider all the names we know–and all the ‘acts’ we remember.

        August 17, 2009 at 5:08 pm

  2. I understand the pain of looking for the blessing-memories that take place so few and far between in a difficult childhood. What a beautiful one you found!

    August 16, 2009 at 3:43 am

    • And I’m grateful to be able to revisit it every now and then. I hope to unearth a few more ! I guess it’s another example too that without the “bad” experiences of life we perhaps wouldn’t appreciate so much the “good” times !

      August 16, 2009 at 10:19 am

  3. Childhood can be so lonely when there is no one that reaches back with a hug. I had a chocolate brown pekinese dog that would great me every day after school. I’m whiping back a tear remembering with you.

    August 16, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    • And aren’t animals, especially dogs such wonderful childhood companions ? I always had a dog at home to return to but I also remember a beautiful Red Setter that would greet me about half way along on my walk to school and then accompany me the rest of the way. It was great..I loved the sense that it waited especially for me every morning. Thanks for helping me to tap into that memory !

      August 17, 2009 at 3:17 am

  4. People like them, they are God’s angels. For them it’s all about the Love. They probably didn’t know your name, either, but the connection was true and clear: God loves you and wants you to know this. Hold this lavender pillow full of Love close to your heart. You are strong; you will be okay.
    Thanks again for sharing about your angels.
    Pam

    August 16, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    • Thank you Pam. I think they were God’s Angels…and I’m starting to recall they were (and still are) many along the way…

      August 17, 2009 at 3:18 am

  5. Wow. A beautiful story. Thank you.

    August 19, 2009 at 7:22 am

  6. Lavender is an aroma that is sometimes associated with Heaven.

    There are Angels all around us in different dimensions, but they are fighting demons, which somehow slip through and cause all the evil in the world.

    You can be rest assured that God and his Angels will ultimately win the fight.

    This was a beautiful story and well-delivered!

    August 19, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    • Oh I definitely agree these lovely people were my Angels. Thank you Paul, for your comments.

      August 20, 2009 at 2:12 am

  7. That is a beautiful story – very emotional, sad and made me teary eyed…..pulled at the heart…..bless

    August 29, 2009 at 2:24 am

  8. G’day ! Thanks for the aussie greetings from afar ! We all have our stories to tell don’t we ? I love this forum for sharing and learning. Thanks for stopping by.

    Colleen

    August 29, 2009 at 11:38 pm

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