Our Lovely Friend and I were talking about the old times yesterday; about people who had touched our lives and left a mark before moving away.
Some of the memories we shared are best pushed aside, for the feelings they evoked were not conducive to happiness and harmony – but anger and an awareness that there are some people who will never be satisfied with what they have.
It is my opinion – and mine only – that they should just do one and stop whingeing about their self-centred and self-imposed lot.
There was one person however, that we both remembered with huge fondness, a person who touched our lives briefly like some marvellous multicoloured bird, who flitted in, wove some magic in our lives and then disappeared again leaving us with only rumours of what had happened to her.
Let’s call her Pandora – for she opened a box of new experiences and ideas that surprised and delighted some of us but irritated and created envy and resentment in others.
At the time we knew her, Pandora was married and had five children, the youngest two from her husband, one of his and two of hers from other relationships.
She was flamboyant. Tattooed and pierced but not in a way that made you think she was doing it to gain attention or punish herself. They were just a part of Pandora. Her dress sense outraged the mothers at the school gate but she smiled throughout and rarely expressed negativity about their attitude, nor about those in our little group who did not exactly seek her company.
Like Hub and I, she had lost babies and it was a piece of common ground that we shared almost immediately when we started to talk. Under the trappings, Pandora was warm. kind and understanding; I think that LF and I warmed to her right from the beginning and were pleased that she wanted to become a part of our ever-extending circle. Our children were of a similar age and we shared the delights of parent and toddler group, and playschool as well as coffee mornings, lazy lunches and girls’ nights in.
Over time, even some of those who had been put off by Pandora’s style began to realise that although she was different, she maintained the same core values as the rest of us. She loved her children and would do anything for them, affectionate and always interested but defensive as a she-lion should anything or anyone threaten to harm her brood.
Pandora was a natural and very funny raconteur. Her life hadn’t always been a happy one and I think that we knew that although she laughed about her past, events had left their mark on her and there were some issues that she could never fully open up about.
Uni Boy and Pandora’s youngest son went to playschool together. The two of them flooded the boys toilets by blocking up the urinal outlet ‘to see what would happen’. They both had enquiring minds and given UB’s subsequent leaning towards scientific research, this early exploration is unsurprising.
Playschool staff tried to put the blame on Pandora’s son – he was a few months older and besides, she was a tattooed biker chick and I was conventional by comparison. UB could stay but his partner in crime had to leave.
Pandora defended him admirably and once I’d got the explanation from UB, I was able to point out that it had been UB’s idea and that Pandora’s son had just been an admiring audience. The threat to expel one child and not the other disappeared at this point. I lost my respectable reputation at that point though and had to washing up and cleaning tables in reparation.
At the end of term Pandora and I were allowed to take our sons on the playschool summer trip to an adventure farm – but only if we promised to supervise them constantly. In the end it was Pandora and myself that were badly behaved as we giggled and snorted at the tackiness of the run down farm. The trailer ride round the farm was smelly and bumpy; perched on damp hay bales you either laughed or cried. The trip through the trees had us both in hysterics as our straight-faced fellow mummies failed to see why we found the pieces of female torso posed artistically in the branches so amusing. Well, you had to be there.
I’ve been back since and the trailer ride hasn’t changed, the hay still smells and the tree decorations remain the same. Hub found it highly amusing too.
At one girly night in, Pandora had me convinced (she didn’t have to work too hard) that Glayva (whisky liqueur) would be very good for my ropey chest.
I had previously avoided whisky-related products since an unfortunate New Year celebration with one of my uncles. Bad idea to try and match him drink for drink anyway but we were drinking whisky.
I didn’t eat for three days.
On the fourth day I could just about cope with tomato juice and worcester sauce – no vodka either thanks.
But Glayva tasted of honey and slipped own SO easily.
I vaguely remember being transported home in a minibus taxi at the end of the night, and being the last one to be dropped off.
I was very, very drunk but after Hub had helped me indoors and held back my hair as I hurled, my chest did indeed feel better.
My stomach did not,
Pandora was very apologetic and kept the Glayva locked away in the cupboard after that.
I tried to practice moderation in all things after that.
During the summer, Pandora and her family went off to the seaside in a caravan for six weeks.
It was idyllic for the children as their father only came down on the weekends this lovely gregarious soul was starved of adult company during the week.
Hub and I took the boys down to visit for the day. They were in their element and soon borne off to the beach by Pandora’s tanned and agile brood.
She was obviously pleased to see us and a good time was had by all but Hub and I both felt that there was a sadness in her that we’d never witnessed before. She clung to me as we left and I wish I had been less distracted by my own children’s bickering. I wish that I had stayed a little longer and asked her how she really felt.
Other friends went down to visit and expressed their concerns at the effect the isolation was having on her.
They came back at summer’s end.
Pandora had changed.
She was always interested in alternatives, and this curiosity was probably another aspect of her appeal.
When she came returned to us, her talk was of paganism and witchcraft. She’d become friendly with a group of people on the caravan site who were seriously into wicca. There was little of the Pandora that we knew and loved left and the two younger children seemed clingy and no longer carefree.
Within a month, Pandora and her husband had separated. He moved out of the house and Pandora stated that she was in a relationship with one of her pagan friends, and that she would be moving away with the two youngest children to join them soon.
She left without telling anyone in the end; we were never sure if we had ceased to matter to her or whether it was because she couldn’t bear to say goodbye.
We hoped it was the latter.
There were lots of rumours and who is to say what was true and what wasn’t?
It was said that Pandora’s new partner was involved with drugs.
It was said that he went to jail for a brief spell but that due to the information he passed on to the police he was let out early.
It was said that Pandora and her children became a part of the witness protection scheme as a consequence of her partner’s information, and had to change their identities.
It was said that Pandora had another baby.
Pandora’s boy would be 21 now and her girl would be 19 – the same ages roughly as our own boys.
I often wonder where they are and what they are doing.
Where is Pandora and is she happy?
Does she ever think of us and does she realise how much of a warm glow she spread through our little community all those years ago?
“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No mteatr. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett