English trains were different from the trains in the US. Rather than seats all facing in one direction, each car being sort of like a bus, the English trains had compartments. Each seated, as I recall, six people. Perhaps they were only meant for four, but regardless, Mom, Jeannie and I sat on one side facing the sole passenger seated on the other bench seat. Now, in such close quarters, and without the "safety" of simply being able to stare at the back of another passenger's head, one tends to feel something akin to that of sharing an elevator ride with strangers. When there is only one other passenger it seems even more uncomfortable. Should I look at my shoes? Should I look out the window? Should I look at the outfit the other person is wearing? Should I pretend to read my book?
All of these options were considered as I sat in my seat, not really knowing the protocol. But I noticed the other passenger kept staring at me, and at my Mom. And I looked at Mom to see whether she was going to do something about this staring woman. I was surprised to see Mom was staring back at this woman. Both were exercising the "stare and look away" move, the one that is designed to avoid direct contact, while sizing up the other person. So I watched them in this odd game of tag, until such time as the inevitable occurred. They made eye contact.
I don't recall who spoke first, but the question was, "did you ever live in Cyprus?" Well, to make a long story short, our compartment mate that day was my first teacher. She taught me when I was 3-5 years old, living in Cyprus. Naturally, the rest of our journey to London was spent catching each other up on the six years that had passed since last they'd known each other. As a child, it was a memorable moment to me, though I do not exactly recall remembering this woman from when I was five. Still, I thought it interesting that adults seemed so happy to see someone after such a long period. In my world, I suppose, I did not yet dwell on the friends left behind as we moved to different countries to accommodate my father's career. I guess I lived in the here and now.
Today, more than 40 years since that train ride, I had that feeling rush over me...that feeling my mother must have had when she had that chance encounter with my former teacher. I returned from the pond house, where I had spent the afternoon cleaning up the yard, to find a message on my FaceBook account. The message was entitled, "I Friend From Your Past."
|Dad, Jeannie and I -- at the Airport, July 1968|
Heading to England
|Cheltenham, Gloc. circa 1969|
|The Everyman Theatre 1969|
|Dean Close -- 1969|
Anna was one of my four best friends who lived in Cheltenham, on my block, during my years in England. I met her when I was 10 and I moved away when I was 13. We did not keep in touch, but I thought about her over the years. When FaceBook opened the doors to many lost friends, I tried to find her. As can be expected, maiden names are not always that useful in finding friends. Add the less than unique first and last names, and it can be daunting to find an old friend. I looked, but did not find Anna, or Simon, or Sarah. I did find Michael, as he has a particularly unusual last name.
It seems that today Anna found Michael on FaceBook, and in looking through his friends, found me. From there she also read some of my posts here on Blogspot and knew she'd found the right person, when she read a post describing "the wall" and "the willow tree" that were so much a part of our social life and development in those days. And so she messaged me.
I now have enjoyed the wonderful experience my mother had that day, back in 1969, reconnecting with an old friend. I understand it today, at age 52, as I could not possibly understand it at 11. I'm glad I have the opportunity to catch up with her. What a lovely day!
|Approaching the Pond from the Path|
|Standing on the Dock, Looking toward the Dam|
|Empty Osprey Nest,|
They Will Return Next Spring
|Added for Sam -- Chico is in the middle of the picture|
Taken back in the US
about a year after our return from England
|Up close picture of Chico (for Sam)|