The International Writers
and her Mother.
day that Dora was born was the happiest day in her mothers
life. Everyone; family, friends, neighbours, and even the birds
that lived in the trees had come to see the birth of the new baby
girl. The sun could not be there at the time, but snowflakes rested
on the windowsill by her bedside. For years to follow, snow would
always be by her side, and she would grow to comprehend that the
magic of life lies not in the miracles of sudden fortune, or in
the cure of incurable diseases; but in the small simplicity of
wondrous happenings. She had been blessed with a happy life, and
was reminded always, that you must do to others as you wish they
would do to you.
"When I grow up, I want to be just like you", Dora once told
her mother. She was only seven at the time, and already she helped about
the house, laying the table as soon as her height permitted her to do
so. The grown-ups that visited their home would say, "Shes
her mothers daughter, an apple off the apple tree," and she
would see her mother smile, blushing slightly in admiration.
It was snowing on the morning of her eighth birthday; and Dora awoke with
the sound of voices nearby. Her mother had company, which was unusual,
and she ventured in to the kitchen to find out who the visitor was. As
she walked down the stairs she heard the front door closing, and she caught
a glimpse of her mother drinking tea.
"Mother, who was here?" she asked curiously as she entered the
room. Her mother looked up at her "Im afraid I have some bad
news, Dora. Your grandfather stopped by to remind me of a deed that was
made many years ago. This house was given to me when you were born, by
an old friend of your grandparents. They told me I could raise you here,
and this would be the place you would grow to call your home, but only
until your eighth year."
"And what would happen then?" Dora asked, worried about what
would become of their life.
"Now, you mean. We will move out and find somewhere else to live.
Its simple. To live my darling, is to constantly fight against the
odds of defeat."
And indeed they would move out of the grand house, in less than a weeks
time a small hotel room by the edge of town became the place that they
Dora grew up in that hotel room. Both mother and daughter found happiness
here, as they did in the most uncommon places. They found, after time,
that they did not need the luxury of the grand house, or the comfort of
a large garden to play in. To be happy, to have good food and a warm bed
to sleep in, this was sufficed. Dora had never quite grasped why they
had to move from the house, but when she questioned her mother all she
would get as an answer was, "When God closes a door, somewhere he
opens a window."
It took her a long time to understand what this meant, but she believed
it as she did so many of the things her mother said. Religion was a tradition
in her family, and her mother insisted on it. As for Dora, she thought
it quite magical, and was fond of the idea of having someone watching
over your every move. In her prayers she would thank God and her grandmother
for protecting her. She would say: "goodnight God, goodnight Granny"
at the end of her prayer, but we shall come back to her grandmother later.
The two had many possessions, mainly photographs and books, and her mother
would read to her every night from the books, or open up the dusty photograph
albums and tell stories of the people that Dora had not had the chance
to know. Her mother was an only child just as she was, so together they
were each others mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and every other
relative you can imagine. They did everything together, and even though
she was only eight years old, Dora felt that her mother needed her tremendously.
Every morning when the clock struck six Dora and her mother would awake,
and to the sound of Bachs Air in D major they would do their morning
duties. It was her mothers favorite song, and she always would listen
to it, "when I hear this song, I sense my mother with me," she
would tell her daughter, and Dora would listen hard and try to find a
voice in midst of all the violins and pianos but all she could hear were
instruments. She decided that that was the gift of the grown-up, to find
magic in such normal things.
Life had played Dora a tough hand of cards, but the toughest event was
still to come. On the day of her fifteenth birthday, she was given a letter
written to her by her grandmother, a few days after she was born. Her
grandmother was a beautiful woman, and had chosen to give her heart to
the first man she had ever shared a kiss with, remaining by his side till
the day she died. The letter was seven pages long, it spoke of life and
was so rich in feelings and truth that from the day she first read it
Dora felt as though that letter was her grandmother herself, and carried
it with her like an omen whenever something important was to happen.
Sometimes, although she did not tell anyone about this, she could feel
a unique scent coming from the pages, an odour of edelweiss, her grandmothers
favourite flower. The border of the pages had been delicately drawn, and
each page had a ring of edelweiss flowers surrounding the script. The
paper in her grandmothers letter to her was a slightly different
colour, a shade of pink, not the bright pink that you see in crayons but
a much softer tone, like that of an old ladys lipstick. This letter
was a detailed description of the events preceding her birth, and she
was finally able to understand her past.
It is with great pleasure that I write this letter to you, I hope it shall
bring you some faith, and some understanding of what has happened before
your arrival in this world. We are what our parents bring us up to be,
but not only; we are all reflections of the world that has passed in front
of our eyes and of the years that we lived through. You, my child, are
the daughter of a strong woman. She will protect you and love you dearly
until the day she dies. I wish you a long and beautiful life; I will not
be with you for the duration of it, as God has chosen me to be by his
side shortly. When you are older your mother will explain. But remember
that I am always watching over you. And I will always love you dearly..."
When she finished reading it for the first time she asked her mother;
"what did granny die of?"
"She died of cancer, Dora," her mother replied. "Her friends,
who own the house we used to live in, felt pity on us for they knew that
one day your granddaddy would die and it would be hard for us to live
on our own. So they loaned us a house. They were sympathetic to our condition,
I had no husband, my mother was passing away, and my father could not
provide for the both of us."
As her mother said this, Dora could see a tear coming to her eyes, and
she reached over to hold her mothers hand. They moved closer together,
embracing each other tightly, the kind of embrace that is given only from
mother to daughter; loving, protective, comforting. Dora said quietly
"mother, you are so strong. Thank you for being here for me, I cannot
imagine myself without you. And even when I am gone, when I grow up and
move out, this will still be my home, my shelter. Whenever I am by your
side I will feel sheltered."
Doras mother started to cry even more; it was as though a sudden
overwhelming nostalgia and fear of the future had overcome both of them.
"You are so young, only fifteen, and still I burden you with my sorrows.
Your grandmothers letter has made you grow so fast, my dear. Yesterday
you were fourteen and today you turned fifteen, but you have grown since
reading the letter, sometimes I feel as though you are even older than
me, you are so mature and wise. I feel so weak sometimes."
To this Dora replied "only the strong have the luxury of momentary
weakness, mummy. You are a warrior, a survivor, and with you I have learnt
to survive as well." In the warm embrace they both remained until
they realised nighttime had come and it was time to go to bed. Outside,
it began to snow.
It was mid spring when one day Dora decided to go for a walk. Her twentieth
birthday had been a few months before; and for the first time in years,
for as long as she could remember, it hadnt snowed. She was quite
disappointed, and she blamed its absence for a series of unfortunate events
that had occurred since then. A strong flu had left her bedridden all
through March and April, and it was the doctors orders that she
went for daily walks around town. On this day, Dora was by herself and
she decided to take a different road, she did not like it when her mother
was not with her, so as a sign of rebellion she changed her path. The
highway took her down to the place she least expected to find, the old
house they used to live in. How ironical of life, she felt, that in all
these years never had she come by the house, and suddenly she should come
to find it twelve years later.
The house was big and gloomy; it looked as though it had been empty since
they had left it. The paint, which used to be white, was now an ugly shade
of grey, not pretty and happy as it used to be, the house looked sad and
worn, bitter and dead. As she stood there, staring at it for minutes that
seemed like hours, she suddenly realised that there was something wrong
with the house.
What was it? She could not put her finger on it. Truth be said, it was
not as grand as she had remembered, maybe she had grown or it had shrunk.
Her mind went back to the days when she would lie in the garden with the
beautiful white snow that covered the grass surrounding her and she would
spread her arms and legs around her, making snow angels. Her mother would
laugh and join in too, and together they would play until they tired.
They had been so happy here, but how? No longer did she believe in a past,
what mattered was your future, look what her past had consisted of. As
one grows older, she decided, it becomes difficult to just believe. Everything
meaningful in her life, she decided, was worth nothing at all. She reached
in to her pocket and took one last look at her grandmothers letter.
If her presence was still alive it would follow Dora around, she did not
need to keep those tatty pages. Without hesitating she ripped the pages
in to millions of little pieces and threw them at the house.
As she walked away, she did not look back to see the remains of her grandmothers
letter, neither did she realise at the time that this was representative
of a much bigger fact, Dora was growing up. The torn pieces of letter
fluttered to the ground, white and crisp, flying gently to their destiny
like the snow to a garden in winter.
A few years on, Dora was a grown woman. The conversations she had with
her mother so many years before had paid off, now every night before she
went to sleep she would tell her own stories, not to a child of her own,
but to the notebook that rested on her bedside table.
Her mother still lived on by her side, but in a quieter way. Her grandmothers
illness had been passed on to her mother, and so she lay in bed day after
day, reading the novels that had put Dora to sleep so many years before.
She was still a warrior, and a victorious one. Dora was proud of herself,
proud of her upbringing.
In one of her autobiographical pages she wrote "when we left the
big house on Elysian Fields Common, we became roofless. But finally we
could see the sky." By her bedside she had a toy that had been given
to her by her mother a long time ago, it was a snow dome. Shaking it and
watching the snow fall over the image of the large castle gave her peace
of mind, it reminded her of all her birthdays and Christmases, all the
occasions when snow had been by her side. And she realised, every morning
she realised a little more, that snow would always be by her side, and
she had finally grown to comprehend that the magic of life lies not in
the miracles of sudden fortune, or in the cure of incurable diseases;
but in the small simplicity of wondrous happenings. She had been blessed
with a hard life, but with the immense capacity to make it work out. She
was a warrior, just like her mother.
© Gabriela Davies March 2007
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