17. Apr, 2016

A gate with a tale

At our home for waifs and strays, there is an old gate with a history and a tale to tell.  

      Just as I rescue many things, I rescued this gate when my childhood home was sold. It is part of many pictures I have, so how could I leave it behind?

      Generations of my family have come and gone through this simple wrought iron portal. They have marched through it on their way to war and back again. 

      I have photos of my great grandparents standing besides it, before the Second World War. My great grandmother wore a long black dress and a stern look on her face. She had scraped her grey hair back to form a bun at the nape of her neck and her arms were folded against her chest. A small black dog is resting by her feet and I instantly warmed to her.

      Then there is my mother, another proud and independent woman on her wedding day and then another holding me in her arms a few years later. And as I look through the photo’s I find another, when she was taken through the gate for the very last time. Bring her back! I remember wanting to scream the words but no sound could I make. Too soon I remember thinking, far too soon!

       There’s the photo of the farmer who lived next door, he was standing against the gate with a rifle in one hand and a dead rabbit in the other. I never did like that photo! I didn’t care much for the farmer either. Once a year he would hold a pigeon shoot and my brother and I would gather as many wounded pigeons as we could. I turned an outhouse into a temporary hospital but it was more like a morgue at the end of the day.

      And there is one of my Aunty Carrie. She wasn’t my real aunty but in those days, we called everyone uncle so and so or aunty so and so. Perhaps it is a welsh thing, I’m not sure. Well she is standing there with an apron wrapped around her enormous body and wore her stockings around her ankles. But she had the kindest smile I can ever remember. She cried and laughed with me many times. I think we laughed more than we cried. And she introduced me to sweet tea! ‘It’ll warm the cockles of your heart,’ I remember her saying. I’m not sure what that meant, but I have enjoyed sweet tea ever since.

      And there is one of my father and I standing outside the garden gate. We had been banned from the house for bringing home a stray dog. It’s snowing in the picture and if they only knew then that the very dog we had rescued would one day rescue my dear brother.

       So I come to that rescue, the one that brought the media from around the world. We watched in amazement as cameramen hung over the gate shouting for my father to go out and talk about the dog, the one we rescued and called Tripper. It was the second time he had saved my brother’s life on a beach near our home.                                                                                                             

        I also walked through that gate at the tender age of fifteen and stayed away for many moons and many summers. But I returned to find the gate still there, still the same. It was I who had changed. But nothing could change the memories that link us. And now that gate is part of our home for waifs and strays. It is a new chapter in our lives.