Jenny stared at the stunningly beautiful woman sitting opposite. She seemed to be in another world – of a different time. Verdum, verdum, verdum . . . the train was pulled rhythmically through the May morning. Steady cows and their wondering calves accepted this intrusion of their peace and stability. “They can’t know their destinies,” thought Jenny, “just as I can’t know mine.” Travelling south to stay with her mother, Jenny was unsure of how she would be received. This duty-visit was not going to be much fun. She closed her eyes and dozed. Small children squabbled over the swing in the garden. “It’s my turn Jenny, get off.” But Jenny stayed on the swing until a voice called from the back door, “Jennifer, Josie, Bobby, lunch!”
Opening her eyes, Jenny looked again at the woman opposite. She seemed so distant. Why did she not wish to communicate? Well, people don’t always want to speak to a stranger on a train. Her face was like a map – full of information for those who are lost – direction – that is what Jenny saw in this mature woman’s eyes. She knew who she was and where she would be. Verdum, verdum, verdum. . . they were covering mile after mile of ample countryside, bursting with life, throbbing with future. Jenny remembered this journey over recent years. It never got any easier. Mother had made it clear that Jenny was abandoning her and never saw the reasons for her departure, never thought that there could be a decent need for anyone to go away. Her daughter had attempted to persuade her to move up with her. No! To at least take the occasional holiday with her. No!
Jenny had felt guilt for ages – guilt that had made her quite poorly at times – frustrated at other times. “How can I make Mother see that I have control over where I live and what I do?” Jenny had shared her troubles with Giles. “I don’t think that is your problem Jen – what you need to do is make the old dear realise that what she wants for you and of you is not the same as what you want for yourself.”
The woman opposite had now fixed her gaze forward. They were slowing down and pulling into a little station. Jenny appreciated the hanging baskets and painted troughs full of late spring flowers. She was always grateful for people who would garden to give others pleasure. It was quite selfless to make a pretty garden outside your own plot with the express purpose of giving joy to others. People alighted and people climbed into the carriage. Some appeared to be excited about their journey, others appeared to be resigned to theirs. “I should fall into the excited group,” thought Jenny,”but I don’t.”
The train remained in the country station for some time. Jenny felt confused now. Why should she feel like this? It was as if she were passing through some major restructuring of her confidence. “I’m not a bad person, so why do I feel so naughty when I travel to see Mum? Why do I go through this torture EVERY TIME? It isn’t me . . .it isn’t my fault that things are so cool between us. It is Mum who is the child and I must help her to understand about her world just as she did with me when I was small. I’m not a bad little girl, not even a little girl.”
The leaves of the tulips were beginning to yellow and their heads had been removed with care so that they would grow strong for next year. Amongst them, forget-me-nots bloomed alongside aubretia and little pin cushions of saxifrage. Just then the amazing glory of a peacock butterfly settled on the edge of a trough of flowers – a mix of fading spring bulbs and promising characters for the later spring days. “Look!” Jenny wanted to say to the composed woman opposite but she could not – she smiled at her instead and she smiled back. Jenny now knew that she had passed through her metamorphosis. The reflection in the window told her so.