Have you ever stumbled across somebody who’s had an impact on your life, regardless of how big or small the interaction? I recall both drunken nights and sober moments where I’ve crossed strangers who’ve struck an emotional chord, saying something to shift my current mind-frame and exhibiting gestures of kindness.
I must have been 7 or 8 when my parents separated and it felt as though we’d entered a battlefield. My parents didn’t seem to like each other anymore and every outsider held an unwarranted opinion. My mum bought her first house as a single-parent and my brother and I were now traipsing between homes, coming to terms with a new dynamic; trying to find a happy medium. At the time, there was a lot of ill feeling between my parents and the atmosphere at home was tense – strange to recall as many years later they ended up being near enough friends.
Well, back to the nineties: my dad immersed himself in work (no different from the norm) and being a “man’s man”, didn’t sit me and my brother down to discuss how we felt about the separation. My mum’s approach was different: she wanted us to talk about our emotions and get everything out in the open. It was a weird time. I missed my family being together and suddenly became aware of two very different modes of parenting.
By the time I reached 9 (still moving back and forth between homes), my dad had a lodger move in to one of the top floor rooms. Her name was Dawn: a tall, slim woman with pixie blonde hair and sparkling eyes. She befriended me with warmth and I liked her immediately. At last, a part of the change I was willing to embrace. The greatest thing about Dawn was that she liked children and would play games with me, which in a way stopped me focusing on my mother’s absence. She encouraged me to paint, sing, read and write – the same things my mother would have us do. I was taken under her wing and we established a bond: it was an unmotivated friendship with no gains, which is a very nice thing to recall.
One year later Dawn fell pregnant and moved to Brighton. I visited her once or twice but with the busyness of life we naturally lost touch. Years later, her name came up in conversation and I began to reflect – it was the first time I acknowledged her place in my life as an adult. After sifting through twenty different Facebook profiles I managed to find Dawn and sent a message. As somebody who worries a lot, I felt embarrassed to have reconnected and provided myself with all sorts of negative reasons as to why she may not reply. I needn’t have worried; we soon began an exchange and arranged to meet up.
I spent a weekend with Dawn in Brighton and she was exactly as I’d remembered: full of warmth and life and fun. It was interesting observing her from an adult perspective and pretty cool drinking our first glass of wine together!
There’s something reassuring about Dawn’s small but significant role in my life; she appeared at the right moment, sparking a friendship which helped through some difficult times.