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Monday, February 7, 2011

Snowdrops

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.



76 comments:

mrsnesbitt said...

Lovely Shrinky! If I didn't know any better I would say you had been round with your camera - for the snowdrops at the bottom of our garden look exactly the same! Yes - Spring is knocking at the door!

Pat Tillett said...

What a great story! It almost reads like a fairy tale. I'm proud of you for making your life what it is. Coming from humble beginnings makes it a lot harder! (don't I know it!)
I really enjoyed this post!

Akelamalu said...

What lovely memories of your first job you have Shrinky.

I noticed snowdrops just ready to open on my front lawn this morning. :)

BRUNO said...

Y' know, you and MY late-sister have some eerily-similar "parameters", when it comes to how she (and I) were raised when kids---we BOTH seemed to "bloom"-better, once we got away from our Mother. However, she WAS "Daddys'-girl", and I was "Daddys'-boy", I guess you'd call it?

Now, I(we)loved our Mom---but she was kinda "freaky", at times, especially as me an' Sis got older. We were both just too, umm---"coarse", for her person. And, we, too, responded better to being "mothered" by other non-direct kin.

But, with that having been said: I have a surviving younger brother who was "Mommys' Special", who hasn't acknowledged my existence for the past several-years, because I don't "fit"-into his personal little fantasy world.

Ashamedly, I admit to enjoying watching it crumble-in on top of him, a little-faster each day, now...

Jay Simser said...

What a perfectly delightful story you have shared. And so beautifully written. Thank you.

Ami said...

Have you tried to find that nice person?

Amazing story.

I've wished to go back and thank some of the people who were so kind to me so long ago... not a clue how to find them.

mythopolis said...

As I read this I pictured it like a movie. Of course I couldn't pay but a pittance, but I could use a good nanny these days - now that I have entered my second childhood. : )

Jeaux said...

What an enchanting story, this season in a kind of heaven, a sacrament, a promise.

It reminds me that we're parented by many, house to house, wisdom to wisdom. Glimpses of heaven and hell, gathering up keepsakes along the way.

Lovely shot of the snowdrops - their triumph over winter all the more stirring in their delicacy and transience.

I don't know how I got here, but glad I did.

Cheeseboy said...

I am jealous of the signs of spring. It is freezing here.

Loved the story. Makes me visualize an innocent time in England.

Hilary said...

Such lovely memories of a pivotal time in your life. It would be so nice if everyone knew how they so positively influenced someone when they needed it. Lovely to see your snowdrops. All I see here, is snow.

Kate said...

'I felt easy in solitude...' Very lovely, Shrinky. I have no idea what a McIntosh is...thought it was a type of apple.
Thanks for the wonderfully crafted story. I really enjoyed reading it.

Land of shimp said...

Aw! That was a lovely story and a wonderful memory to share. I am sure she meant well but it's an awkward age anyway and it must have been difficult to be corrected in such a manner.

Still, I know exactly what you mean. It was very healing for me too when I realized there were all kinds of ways to live as a family. That there were plenty of happy ones where people were kind to each other.

But you know, I don't think she'd be surprised that you owned your own company with 500 employees, Shrinky. I have a feeling that part of the reason she was trying to "help" is that she already knew you were destined to be more than a mother's helper in the not distant future.

Oh my...I wonder what became of the children? It just occurred to me, they're all grown and likely have a child or two of their own.

Time is a bandit.

Leslie: said...

Your story made me think of the numerous "upstairs/downstairs" type of shows that Britain produces, the latest of which I love is "Downtown Abbey."

#1Nana said...

A lovely story. Have you contacted them since? I really like how you structured this story. I learn so much reading other people's blogs.

Mushy said...

OMG...so many comments...you'll probably never see mine, but I wanted you to know I loved the piece and the photos. I liked the "a nervous stab twisted my belly" part...creative as ever!

Fen said...

what a lovely story, and a wonderful experience for you. Snow drops are lovely, how exciting that spring is on the way.

Portia said...

I agree that finding the family to thank them and even catch up would be a wonderful idea. As adults many of us try to be a good influence for young people and then wonder if we made a difference at all!

tattytiara said...

Wow, what an amazing experience. Very much a different world than any I've ever been in, but your eloquence really brings it to life in my imagination.

Putz said...

so you were a nanny,.,.,.one of the girls converted to our church from manchester england who took a nanny job in utah with a doctor and a mother who just needed paid help to take care of eight children in salt lake city in 1964, when i was 19 years old was a nanny<><><>,.wow that was just one sentence up there wasn't it????? see never mentioned snowdrops to me however, but she and i were buds and she visited with me after i returned home

Rock Chef said...

This sounds like a very important stage in your life, and it is great that you have fond memories of it.

You paint wonderful images when you write - so glad I found your blog!

Kristina Hughes said...

You tell a brilliant story and paint a lovely picture - I can almost feel how you felt in their house! You rock, Shrinky! (and there's quite a lot of the mentor in you too..!)xxx

Jayne said...

Oh Shrinky, this is so touching, so lovely. You ought to get this piece to the Connelly's somehow. It's a beautiful tribute to a loving family. And I'll bet they have very fond memories of you.
How fortunate for you - and at 16, too! A special time, indeed.
The "snowdrops" were the perfect accompaniment to this post. ;)

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

what a lovely picture you painted..

Grandma's scrapbook said...

Post is great, spring colors . Really nice work!Thanks.

JeannetteLS said...

I would imagine they have equally fond memories of you. That felt like something I would see on Masterpiece Theater. Visual, quiet, yet moving. Your writing is beautiful and so was your memory. thank you.

simon said...

nice.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Ahh, those are my kind of snowdrops and wonderful memories.
:-))))
xo jj

secret agent woman said...

Great story.

Here it's crocuses that signal the coming of spring.

Hilary said...

Years ago, my English cousin came to America as a nanny. She wasn't so lucky, the family was not nice, and I went to fetch her.
Loved your story....and your success.

Jillsy Girl said...

I found you through the Smitten Image and I see why you were awarded this week's POTW. What a wonderful story of your beginnings. I love the way you write. I'm putting you on my Reader! Nice to meet you!

Brian Miller said...

that was enchanting shrinky...certainly well deserved of the potw...

Suldog said...

As always, a wonderful read. Congratulations on being Post Of The Week at Hilary's! Well-deserved!

Julia Smith said...

What a beautiful story. I've popped over from Akelamalu's blog, just in time for a lovely, lovely post.

I, too love snowdrops for the memories they hold - of my grandfather, and the little tuft of them that always appeared truly through the snow when my husband and I lived with my grandmother after he'd passed away.

And I was also a live-in nanny for a single little girl in Toronto, stepping into a much higher income level as someone from a working class background. But I did live as an equal with them and became very, very close with the whole family. I just visited with the woman for whom I'd worked during my Christmas holiday. Hugs aplenty!

ethelmaepotter! said...

Hello Shrinky!

I'm dropping by from Hilary's to say congratulations on your POTW, but I leave here with a sense of serenity and wonder that you and I lead somewhat parallel lives. Not that I was ever a nanny, or anything even similar but your story of leaving friends...

The best I can explain it is this, an excerpt from an unfinished post I began more than a year ago:

"After the ninth move in eight years, I had no desire to make new friends. Friends I had learned to walk away from without regret, but leaving good friends left me heartbroken. And so it was that Trixie Belden and the Bob Whites of the Glen became my best friends."

The story was about books - Trixie Belden was a teenage adventure series, and I read them over and over and over, in lieu of friends.

I do so love your snowdrops. And your story of how they came to be special to you.

Frank Baron said...

Wonderful story, well told. There's an understated elegance in your writing, of which I'm sure Mrs. Connelly would be very proud. ;)

I very much look forward to my front yard's sprinkling of snowdrops revealing themselves every late-winter/early-spring.

Barbara Shallue said...

What a wonderful story, made even better by the way you tell it. Congrats on the POTW!

Sabi Sunshine said...

i loved it...You did pull it out very nicely. I enjoy reading it.

How are doing dear?

Have a wonderful week!

Love
Sabi SUnshine

chewy said...

(smile) Aah, a wonderful mentor to guide you at your maturing age and nudge your manners to proper correctness. - And your own wonderful quiet room! Even though you felt out of their social standing, you must have felt somewhat at peace there.

Nice photo with the fresh green stems and curling red leaves. Snowdrops... a simple gift of springing forth to a new day, a new life.

I like the impressionistic effect on the second photo. but... um... should it be rotated 90 degrees? (wink)

Wendy said...

What a simple, elegant and straight-from-the-heart story you tell. I could just envision you as a young girl, taking all those children for walks while the "grown-ups" visited.

I love snowdrops but won't see any until late March or early April.
Found you via Hilary.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Stopping back to say congratulations on your POTW from Hilary. Well- deserve, indeed.
xo jj

SJ said...

So you do use a fresh plate nowadays right?

laughingwolf said...

wow... simply wonderfulness!

Paul C said...

An introspective and heart felt reflection. Beautiful image.

Out on the prairie said...

What a heart warming story, I read it a second time.

That Girl said...

such a nice story. i was smiling. i also love the photos....i so need to see flowers coming up. sick of this snow!

Life with Kaishon said...

So, Spring really is coming? : ) Are you sure? LOVE the pretty snowdrops. So much better than the fluffy white kind that fall from the sky! : )

Shrinky said...

Yes Denise, it's good to know winter doesn't last forever!

Shrinky said...

Hi Pat, I had a few lucky breaks along the way, the Connelly's were one of them.

Shrinky said...

Hi Akelamalu, yeah so much of what happens to us along the way is simply down to pure chance, isn't it?

Shrinky said...

Hiya Bruno, oh, there is no rhyme or reason when it comes down to family dynamics, is there? My two sisters and I remain very close, but I have a brother I haven't seen for over 14yrs!

Shrinky said...

Aw Jay, thanks for that, it means a lot.

Shrinky said...

Oh Gosh Ami, it was well over 30yrs ago that I worked there, I doubt they would even remember my name by now. some things are perhaps best remembered fondly, and from a distance!

Shrinky said...

Ha Dan, with my brood there are times I feel I am just about all nannied out. I look back and wonder how the heck I ever found the energy to survive raising my lot!

Shrinky said...

Hello Jeux, how lovely to see you stop by here again. I adored the beautiful video posted on your site, but felt disappointed I was unable to tell you, it appears the comments section is disabled?

Shrinky said...

In many ways it was, Cheeseboy (smile)..

Shrinky said...

Hello Hilary, yes I think the weather has been particularly harsh this winter, don't you? Have to say how thrilled I am for your generous Post of the Day award, what a lovely and unexpected honour, it's truly made my week!

Shrinky said...

Hello Kate, oh what a lovely comment to make, thank you for that. Apparently, a McIntosh is a waterproof raincoat, not to be confused with a cloth coat (rolling eyes)..

Shrinky said...

Hi Shimp, yup, time is a bandit indeed, isn't it? I have to say Alane, every time I see you've been in here, my face lights up, you always write the best of comments and bring a smile to my face!

Shrinky said...

ooh Leslie, I have "Downtown Abbey" recorded to see, as I type - so glad you recommend it!

Shrinky said...

Hi #1 Nana, it kind of wrote itself - funny how certain objects can unexpectantly trigger a long forgotten memory, isn't it?

Shrinky said...

Ah Mushy, your comments could NEVER slip by unnoticed, they are far too valuable to me. So good to see you back in here my friend, I miss you.

Shrinky said...

Yes Fen, I think we'll all be glad to see the back of this winter, eh?

Shrinky said...

Hi Portia, I wouldn't have a clue as to where to start to track them down now, but I do hope I've occassionally managed to "pay it forward" now and then (smile).

Shrinky said...

Hey there Tatty, thanks for stopping by - I'm sure the tales of your youth would read equally as "foreign", but fascinating to me, too!

Shrinky said...

Oh that's a wonderful story, Putz. Did she settle in Utah for good, do you know?

Shrinky said...

I think exactly the same, Rock Chef, every time I visit your site (big grin), it's always a joy to hear from you!

Skunkfeathers said...

The groundhawg sez spring is just around the corner...you seem to have confirmed it ;)

TechnoBabe said...

Some of us need reminding you did not live a magical life growing up. And when you hit it big in business you worked very hard to get there. This is a great post and I for one appreciate what it felt to live with people who are not family. It was to your advantage to live with this family and be exposed to things in life you may not have learned otherwise.

Life, Laughter and Paris said...

The snowdrops are beautiful and you paint pictures with your memories. I read this one twice because it's so well written and says a lot about you. Great post!

Travel Nurse Extraordinaire said...

What a lovely story. I hope she knows inside what an impact she made on you and molding your future. Congrats on the POTW! I can definitely see why this was chosen.

Grandma's scrapbook said...

Lovely Shrinky!Very good post, Happy Valentine's Day

Grayquill said...

I took me a bit to get here but it was sure worth the wait. My mother did a similar job only her emoloyer was a lawyer. She recounts also the many things she did not know 'proper' and one of them was the proper way to set a table. Great story, I enjoyed it muchly muchly. Good job.

nick said...

Well of course snowdrops, what did you think it did?

Middle Child said...

wow that is beautiful - but over here or down under the word lavatory is low class - toilet is the word and we all use the word coat - no one says mackintosh - so it may have been insular living and place peculiar - lavatory had a dirty sound compared to toilet...we always had to say bottom and never bum but that was just us!

sandyland said...

They always spell hope for me

Parabolic Muse said...

This is really sweet. I worked at a Fotomat. Prolly shouldn't elaborate.

supersmooch!
C-baby