Look what I found down in the glen, today.
A promise of Spring. Snowdrops always hold a special place in my heart. Once upon a lifetime ago, turned barely 16, I took employment as a live-in "Mother's Help", caring for three young children. The family hired me through an agency, as they lived deep in the countryside, housed in a little village that would make even Miss Marple proud.
He was a surgeon, she a physiotherapist, and for the life of me I can no longer recall the first name of either one of them. The Connelly's had Cecilia (eighteen months old), Kate (four), and a newborn baby boy called Edgar. They paid my return fare to attend an interview, and, subject to character references, offered me the job on the spot.
Having lived the past year with my older sister and her new husband, I knew enough to realise the need to move on, gracious as they were, my ever constant presence and upkeep couldn't have been easy.
The Connelly home was very grand, and set deep in it's own beautiful grounds. My position there paid nine pounds for a five and a half day (7am to 7pm, excepting Saturday's, which ran from7am to 1pm) week, and granted me two full weeks paid leave per annum.
Arriving there on that first day, clutching little more than the clothes I stood up in, a nervous stab twisted my belly as I rang the doorbell. I needn't have worried, Mrs. Connelly proved very kind, and the quarters she allocated me surpassed all expectation. Elegant and lush, it came straight out of a picture-book. It had a writing desk, two floor-to-ceiling windows, a canopied bed, and came adorned with sconces and chandeliers. I had never before seen anything so gorgeous. Placed on the mantelpiece over the fireplace lay a bowl of freshly picked snowdrops, a welcome-aboard gift from my employer.
I'd never received flower's before.
They employed several staff to help maintain the house and gardens, and as Mrs. Connelly had recently elected to become a stay at home mother, my required duties were pretty light and mostly enjoyable. I had no housework or cleaning to do. I rose to make breakfast (poached eggs and toast on weekdays, Cumberland sausage on a Saturday), dressed the girls (in their beautiful smocks with matching tights), and amused them in the playroom until Mrs. Connelly and the baby were free to join us. Wednesday's, Mr. Connelly took a half day from his surgery, and the children and I helped him in the garden, planting, weeding and exploring the grounds.
They were a sociable pair, often throwing parties or charity luncheons. I would oversee the arriving children, accompanying them into the playroom, and inventing games or stories to divert them until home time.
Often, we would shop in the village, or accompany Mrs. Connelly on visits to her friends. On those occasions, I would usually have charge of all three children, wheeling them around the neighbourhood to allow the grown-up's some peace and time to catch up on their gossip. I grew very fond of this family, especially of the girls, and have many humorous memories I could recount of my times spent with them.
But I kept a distance, never truly comfortable in their presence. I came from a different world, used another language and etiquette.
Mrs. Connelly corrected my grammar from using the word "toilet" to "lavatory", chided me to use a fresh plate, not my hand if eating a biscuit, and taught me how to set the table "correctly", with all the courses of cutlery lined up in rightful order. When I finally bought myself the coat I'd been saving for and brought it back, she informed me it was actually a "Macintosh", and not a coat at all. I never seemed to use the right words, or know the correct way things should be done.
I know she meant well. She genuinely wanted me to join them watching TV in the sitting room at night. She worried I had no friends come calling, that I never went out, and feared I was lonely. I couldn't explain how I loved the peace and sanctuary of my room, and had no need for a television. I had my journals to write, and for the first time ever, a safe, secure place to enjoy that was all my own.
I'd moved so often from school to school, town to town, country to country, friends came easy and went without regret, I felt at ease in my solitude, and loved the certain continuity that each and every predictable day brought.
It proved a healing time, and offered me a first hand opportunity to witness how a wholesome, loving family could interact together. I moved on much richer and healthier for the experience. This may have been a humble beginning to my career, but I shall always value it as a vital step towards pointing me onto a better path to aim for.
Mrs. Connelly was never a friend, but she was my mentor. She'll never know how far that shy, unsure girl she once employed went on to achieve her dreams. I'd never have believed it then, either. Who would have thought I'd finally end up as the sole proprietor of a company which payrolled over 500 employees, and all of it long before I married and settled down?
Yes, snowdrops always make me smile.