Sonja Nic Rafferty
Just a point at the horizon
My desk is standing under the window to the backyard. So I become turned away sometimes. For example, when my sons have shot a ball to the neighbour’s ground, for usual they play football. Now however I am hearing the clicking of their glass marbles. I feel myself put in my childhood. We children in the village still had clay marbles, but glass marbles too. We made a small whole into the earth and tried by hand to push in as many marbles as possible. Oliver and Dennis drew lines with chalk on the paving stone of the back yard and developed their own play roles.
Spontaneous I am standing up from my chair and go to the cellar. There is a removal box full of memory pieces. For example the cherry-red first shoes of my meanwhile grown-up daughter Ulrike, my wedding wreath and medals of school sports activities. I grope with my hands for a velvet jewellery casket. Finally I have got it, opening expectantly the lid and there it is, the light blue, marbled glass bowl! I take it upstairs and during this I press it so fast, that my hand is swelling to red.
I am again a ten years old girl and live in the village Eschede. On weekdays I travel by train to the town Celle, where I visit a secondary school. Fast trains do not stop in Eschede and just because it is on the way to Hamburg, I can take a semi-fast train. There is time of waiting, which I spend in the swimming pool or in the town centre with my classmates. Often I sit for hours in the town library, taking book after book because reading is my favourite hobby. On the way to the station is a small park with a playground. Although actually we schoolchildren are too big for the playing apparatuses, we make a detour through the park, for gliding down head over heals on the slide, or dangle on the climbing scaffold. At the edge of the playground are corn yellow painted wooden benches certainly planned for mothers to look after their children during the games. I never have seen little children with mothers here. Often there are sitting alcohol-drinking men under the shady trees. They are peaceful and do not care about us pupils; at the most they leave their beer bottles and newspapers in messy disorder. It is not a lonely area. Employees use my childhood park as a short cut to the station.
Now I am being alone on the playground, which is dipped I a warm golden yellow by the soft sun of June. Before I was in the library again and had rummaged in pictorial reports about Scotland.
Generally I am happy like my classmates. If only there would not be the secret of my descent. Exactly this topic is rather taboo in the house of my parents. They adopted me when I was a little child, and the few times when they talked with me about my origin, I can count at one hand. The worst feeling is, if inaccuracy from outside was told to me. Sometimes in a whisper I was “The English girl”, then I understood, I was not honest which in fact was meant as illegitimate, an expression which did not mean anything to me for a long time.
I do not have brothers and sisters with whom I could share these problems. So very often I pour out my heart to my daily play comrade. It is our dog Rexi always listens patiently. The most discrete friend, you can imagine! Well, I have got a few meagre information about my parents. Celle is a garrison town. I am a child of a refugee from Silesia and an occupying power soldier, who did not come from England but from Scotland. In the beginning he did not know about my existence and giving up for adoption. When he heard about it, he came to Eschede, because of taking me to his parents. In that moment I played outside and did not see him. The rights for adoption permit my new family to forbid the own parents contact to me so they used the rules.
Once, when my adoptive mother was in a good humour I wormed a secret out of her, the description of my own parents. I looked for similarities and got it in the imagination of my father. “He is small, has got brown curly hair and very blue eyes.”
I have thrown my schoolbag onto a bench and am plodding to the climbing scaffold. Somehow I am feeling myself watched and notice that a man is sitting under the chestnut trees. I do not see beer bottles. He is rolling himself a cigarette and lowers his eyes. Out of curiosity I am daring closer to him. Therefore I have to climb to the other side of the supporting. Suddenly is raising his head, smiles and says something what I do not understand. It is English and that I just have learned in school since a few months. Now I am immediately sitting vis-à-vis to him on the cool metal pipes and let my legs dangle, apparently with nonchalance. “He is small, has got brown curly hair and very blue eyes”, I hear my mother saying, and this description is exactly suitable. “It is he!!!” He is here on my behalf because he is not allowed to come to Eschede anymore. I hear my heart thump loudly and I am shivering a bit of excitement.
After a short while every possible questions, which are in my mind, is bubbling out of me. He is just always smiling and answering in his language. “Have you to go again to Hong Kong?” I want to know. “Hong Kong “, he repeats “yes”, and nods with his angular head. The sunbeams of June are reflecting themselves in his eyes and the most fabulously blue comes out, that I ever have seen. It reminds me at a glass marble of my collection. Most of them are varicoloured like sugar-sticks, but this especially big one is mottled sea blue. I can look through it, like on to the ground of the shingle pond in the woods of Eschede, before the bathing season starts. I can look through his eyes, too. They are completely clear. I feel connexion I never have known before.
I have to catch the train and put my little child’s hand in his man’s hand. He looks at me inquiringly, and I pull a bit at him. He stands up and is got smaller than I thought, but not slim. He seems to be strong. His greying suit is a little worn out of shape and is too big. The pants are falling in folds plentifully above the deep black military polished shoes, which in its elegance strangely contrast with the suit. I am holding tight his hand the few steps to the station. I talk to him uninterrupted. Sometimes he smiles at me kindly. I just have found him and now I loose him again. We are standing at the platform. With groaning brakes the train comes and is lifting me up to the running board. I am waving to him from the rolling up train. I can see him wave as long as he is just a point at the horizon. “Come back!” I am murmuring several times like conjuring up a magic formula.
Having arrived at home I look for the sky-blue marble in my room. After quite a while of looking I am holding my new amulet tight in my hand. I can’t put it around my neck, so I need an appropriate place for it. I find a naval blue velvet casket, in which the ring is lying, that I got for Christmas from my aunt. I am putting the ring loosely into the drawer and keep my marble in the casket, meanwhile I romp around in the woods with our dog.
This evening I cannot fall asleep. Suddenly the face of my mother is turning up above me. She thoughtfully is covering me up. “What are you hiding there?“ she asks and is pointing at my hand, the clear blue marble loudly is rolling down to the wooden floor. My mother shaking her head is picking it up with a smile. She is putting it on the bedside locker.
There are only a few weeks left until the summer holidays. Daily in joyful anticipation I go to the playground in front of Celle’s station. Each time I go back home disappointed, next morning to start the day with new courage.
I am supposed to get send by worker’s welfare association to the north sea island Föhr. Time of packing suitcase is near. I put a warm pullover to the bathing costume; in Scotland it can be very cold, even in summer.
The last school day has come. I can be satisfied with my report. I like going to school. Sometimes for me holidays become boring, because I have got no brothers and sisters to play with.
I am not sitting in the ice-cream parlour with my classmates, but on the playground. I do not climb or slide, I am waiting on a lonely bench. Confusion of voices is approaching. They are the men with the beer bottles. They occupy the bench under the chestnut trees that I have watched all the time. It is the bench on which he was sitting. Time is slipping away. He has not come. Out of the train I am looking at the station for a long time. Then I am spotting a point at the horizon. My eyes are hurting because of exactly looking at it. I think to recognize him. So he has been coming after all, unfortunately too late.
I take the clear blue marble with me to the island.
I have never seen again the foreign man from the playground. I would like to know, what he might have thought about the little girl, who behaved so strange towards him. I wonder whether or not he suspected, how important the few minutes of affection were for her. A light at the horizon can boost somebody’s courage even if it is just a tiny point.
Later, after years I found my mother in England and again after many years my family in Scotland. I missed brothers or sisters so much when I was a child; I got brothers when I have been in my forties. Certainly time of playing is over, but afterwards it has become very much enrichment for my life.
To meet my father I was coming too late for years. He lived and died in Dundee, unfortunately much too early. I still was looking for him, when he had long since gone.
When I was twenty-two years old I got photos of him from my mother in England. He was not the man from the playground who had clear blue eyes.
© Sonja Nic Rafferty~ October, 1994
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Sonja Nic Rafferty.
Published on e-Stories.org on 08/21/2004.