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Are You All Your Old Friends?


great woman

great woman

Mrs. Murray, who lived next door to our trailer, was an elderly lady with whom I had become acquainted.

Even the air inside was yellow. I can still see him in the darkness, crouching like a plant crouching at its roots. The cloak covers her knees; the oxygen tank breathes in its side; the cigarette burns between his fingers.

To my five-year-old daughter, Mrs. Murray seemed as old as the world. It was hard to believe that we were the same.

My brother and I spent a lot of time in his small kitchen waiting for our mother to return from a part-time job or another. I do not remember the time when we were loving each other, but I remember when we knocked on his door, he opened it.

We tried to return the favor. Mother slipped away to decorate us with fresh new wallpaper and handmade curtains. We washed and washed over decades of nicotine that was on every corner. I remember wondering how on the floor, some of Mrs. Murray’s things were not yellow, after all.


But Nell was gentle and kind. The place smelled of sugar cakes and fragrant hand soap. Treasure hung in every corner: yarn leather, boxes of old beads, pulled dolls with smooth plastic heads.

There were also love books packed behind the wood-burning stove in her barn – a low-end store, with men without breasts and women rolling over on covers.

I spent my summer of 10 years stretching out the shag, destroying every book of love and joy and happiness.

Who knew that such strange words could be reconciled? Revelation. Even today, the sound of fragrant soap has the power to convey the message “He came out with his hot limb, which was beating”I wonderfully walk through my head.


There has been a great woman in every area of ​​my life. They have found close friends. They stay where you are now and can think of where you are going.

My own have seen and done what I could not do:

One has a Ph.D. in physics and married a fellow scientist to have someone smart to talk to.

One went to London, drunk, and arrived at the public bath with his foot on the toilet bowl. “I wanted to talk about the good people who had fired me, but I could not. But you should not do that. ”

My new friend often stops and complains about the widows in the club on his bike who are harassing him because of dates. “It’s all too late,” she says, “and I am too old to climb.


But it is Lydia that I have missed so recently.

Lydia was my first friend in the Netherlands. He came to our door with a toy bag to introduce himself; he first tried it in Dutch, then in Italian, and then in French. As the confusion spread in my face, he laughed: “English? Where. “


Many Dutch people share the language of love: arranging a meeting time. Lydia was no different; I often find notes in our mailbox that say: Friday, 13:30. I quickly learned that he translates, “Stay at home and have cookies.”

During her travels, Lydia taught me about Dutch culture: do not delay; do not stay longer than 90 minutes; eat all that you have been given and do not ask for more; and do not be intimidated by the physical expressions of affection.

Then he would sit for hours, eating all the cookies in my house, and giving my children wet kisses.


Lydia survived a Dutch famine during World War II. His father died young; her husband died young; her beloved son died at the age of 40 after falling off a ladder. When I met her, many of her friends had also died. He loved making new friends. “I do not feel very old,” she said, “until I passed by the glass.

One afternoon, we were both drinking coffee in the kitchen. He started a story. He was a teenager on a trip to Amsterdam. “I had a new skirt,” she sighed. You should have seen my beautiful legs.

He paused, remembering: “It was the same weekend that the Nazi army took my father off the streets and put him in prison.”

Wait, what? I pushed. What happened? Were you with him? Did he hurt her? How long did he stay in prison?

He answered my questions like a fly. “Do not show yourself heated up only to do evil. It’s not a story I want to say. I want to talk about my beautiful legs. “

That was Lydia’s point. He had a way of turning the pain of his life into a little myth. He didn’t want me to look at the pain, look at it more deeply, and explain to him how it feels. He insisted on placing the favorites on the front and in the middle and honored his experience with his goals.


The last day I saw Lydia was the day we left the Netherlands. We had just closed our house and were waiting for a taxi to take us to the train station.

Lydia was shivering in the cold winter rain.

“Farewell is important,” he told me, on my last lesson. “Don’t let the people you love leave without someone removing them.”

He was right. When we left, it meant everything to look back and see him there, shaking with all his might.


One day, I too will be an old woman, if I have the chance. I am about to get ready. Here are my favorite five:

Always open your door when children knock.
Make sure you have plenty of cookies and sexy books.
Stop delaying just so men can visit you.
Touch a lot of space for your beautiful legs.
Show goodbye; it is necessary.


Do you have any girlfriends? What did you learn from them?

Meg Embry is a writer who led her to start working as a journalist and editor in the Netherlands. Today, she lives in Colorado, where she studies higher education and careers and uses her blog to disrupt her mid-thirties. He also wrote a Cup of Jo about talking to kids about sex.

PS Visiting Joanna’s grandparents in England, is an old idea.

(Photo by Brakati Krokodil / Stocksy.)



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