Monday, November 29, 2010

On a Train to London

I was 11.  My sister was 12.  We were on our way to London with my mother, a sort of "girl's only" excursion, leaving my four younger brothers and my father at home in Cheltenham that day.  We'd been living in England for more than a year at that point, and, as best I can recall, this was our first trip to sight-see in London.

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)


Gorges Smythe said...

So far, I've found Facebook to be utterly useless for me. I'm glad that it occasionally serves a valid purpose for others. It's great that your friend found you!

Judy's Corner said...

Hi Gorges... I can honestly say that, while I doubt I am a real FaceBook savvy person, and I find all of the games, and invitations and pillow fights etc. to be completely annoying, and do not participate in any of those things that seem to be the real "draw" to FaceBook, I have found it quite useful in connecting with old friends from high school, college and now, grammar school in England. So, it is not utterly useless to me, but, well, I mostly just post a link to my blog post there. Other than that, I try to keep up with what my friends post, but I'm not terribly successful on that one.

mixednut555 said...

Very nice to have connected with someone from your past. I've made several connections with people from my past here on facebook. I even found some cousins that I had no seen or heard from since I was 15 and they were 3 and 5. They had no idea that they had 5 cousins from my dad's family and that my dad, their uncle was even alive. Their father had passed away when they were little and we lost contact completely with this branch of the family. I'm happy for facebook bringing us together again.
WV: idrom

Anna Robson Gartell said...

Whoops sorry seem to have put my comment on your previous blog about Murph. New to this. Facebook has been great for keeping in touch with my friends and family especially when my daughter was living in Australia. It was a great way of following her travels and also for photo sharing and free chatting. I hate the FB games thing though, that really irritates me. Thank you FB for helping me to catch up with Judy.

Anonymous said...

A couple of weeks ago I asked my mum Jane Gartell (Anna's big sister), if there was a monkey across the road from Nan Gartell's house when I was very little. I remember the wall we played on, my Aunts and Uncles and some american children. I was born in 1969 so from what I've read I must have been very young! But the memory came back to me the other day, out of the blue. I have always loved monkeys, I suppose it must have started with Chico!

Judy's Corner said...

Kat, that is amazing. I have some cousins that I have lost track of... not sure I ever actually met them in person, but would love to find them... Facebook IS helpful in that regard!

Judy's Corner said...


Sooooo happy we connected! I truly is wonderful to catch up after so many years. And I just HAS to add a couple of shots of Chico, since Sam asked about him!

Judy's Corner said...

Gosh Sam,
You must have an amazing memory! I have added a couple of shots of Chico to the post for you. You were only 2 when we moved away... very interesting!

Chico, for the record, lived until, I believe, 1981. We got him in 1967, and I am not sure how old he was then, but he certainly gave us a "distinction" with friends through our growing up years!

aswesow said...

That is a pretty distinct least in the western world! When I was in India a street magician got angry with me(I watched his performance, but I honestly had no money to give him) When he got agitated, his little monkey that was passing the hat got upset and bit me. It was a valuable lesson tho, the next fellow that wanted me to watch his show was a snake charmer, and since I had no money I knew enough to walk away!

I thought I was the last person on earth to sign up for facebook...but I've found out that alot of my old friends aren't on it!

The Griper said...

love the blog and the theme of it, judy.

Judy's Corner said...


Chico was actually our second monkey. The first was a squirrel monkey. You are RIGHT about their bite. I received several over the years and they HURT!

Judy's Corner said...

Why thank you, Griper! Nice to make your acquaintance!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the photos of Chico! It is a very vague memory, almost a memory of a memory. I don't have many early childhood memories.. as I said I had to check with my Mum that it was actually real.