“Sorry it’s not in the greatest shape, it’s the last one they had”
The small primrose plant had seen better days, looking up at me like a tiny ray of sunshine from my doormat. It was beautiful. Not because it was a cabbage-like sprawl with some dead flower heads that needed removing behind the two remaining open flowers. But because it was a gift of friendship from my beautiful friend. Unexpected, unannounced, given with no agenda or expectation. This was a tiny, beautiful gift of friendship.
It brought tears to my eyes, the welling of emotion as unexpected as it was powerful. The knowledge that I am still in her thoughts, even when I can’t be in her company reminding me of the strength of the bonds that bind us.
I wanted so badly to give her a hug. The virus prevented it but we exchanged some words and a promise of better days to come. I took her gift inside, removed the brown, spent heads of the dead flowers and gave it some coffee grounds to boost its growth. I’ll plant it in the dappled shade of the large bay tree in my back garden, where I can see it while I wash my dishes, and where it will grow, like our friendship has over the years.
When I first moved to Eastbourne, 8 years ago, I only knew one person here. They worked away a lot and my husband was still working in London so I was largely on my own. It was a really difficult time.
My son went to a special school, situated next door to a mainstream primary school. I walked the same route as many other mothers to the school gate every day. Their children a sea of yellow jumpers. My son, the only one in blue. As the other mothers walked along in cheerful pairs or groups, I walked alone. I was an outsider. My son wasn’t like theirs, marked out by his uniform as being different. I had never felt more lonely.
While all of the mothers walked past me without making eye contact or comment, this one lady, who walked with a cane and a smile said ‘hello’ to me every morning. It was like she was the only person in the world who saw me on those walks to school. Me and my child who walked slowly and didn’t make a sound. I looked forward to seeing her on my lonely walk to school and sometimes helped her down the steps which led to the path where my gate opened, and she would continue with everyone else to the other school gate.
Months later she would buy me a gin and tonic on a night out in a local pub. I’d been invited by someone I had met at my daughters school gate, but sat uncomfortably among old friends while they talked about people and places I didn’t know. This woman sat next to me and included me in the conversation. Gradually I became part of the group and I am glad that they opened their hearts and their arms to a stranger from another county. We’ve helped each other through the pandemic with messages of support and humour.
There are many ways of showing kindness and love. When my heart was breaking because I would have given anything for my son to wear the yellow jumpers and be like all the other kids, this woman’s daily kindness helped me carry on, not feeling quite as empty and lonely as I had before.
The primrose she left on my doorstep means so much more than she could have imagined. Just like the primrose, we might have seen better days, but we are all doing our best.
Hang in there. Be kind, because you never know what someone else is dealing with and how your small act of kindness could be the difference that helps them to keep going.
Be kind, always,