Daffodils – Part 1

I freeze as I walk into the supermarket. I usually avoid it at this time of year, but today I had to come. I did not prepare myself properly. I didn’t prepare myself for the buckets of freshly cut daffodils, glowing in the entrance. I used to equate them with good times, with Millie; though even then they were always not far from the idea of death. But now……….

It was 21st January 1983, when we moved into the bungalow in the small village of Stetherow. Millie had just turned three. It was somewhere I had always wanted to live and my husband, knowing this, had used it to his advantage. He had given us his recently deceased parents’ house, in exchange for bolting from our marriage. He had decided that he was not cut out for fatherhood and had conveniently extricated himself from any future involvement in our lives.
So it was just Millie and me. From the start, it seemed as though we had been destined to live there, if you believe in such things. There was a space for Millie at the local nursery and I managed to find a job that fitted our lives perfectly, in a small convenience store in the village. Within weeks, we felt like we had lived there all our lives.
Money was tight and so I had to be imaginative in entertaining Millie. She did not get to go to the play barn, or the open farm nearby. Instead we went on our own adventures. No matter what the weather, we would be out exploring the countryside around the village. One day we might splash in the muddy puddles, trying not to get the water over our wellies. Another day, we would bask in the sunshine, like lizards.

It all began one spring morning, only a couple of months after we had moved in. It had been raining all week. Both of us were fed up with potato printing and decided, no matter what the weather, we would go for a walk. As we pulled on our wellies and coats, the sun peered through the clouds.
‘Look mummy. It’s going to be nice.’
‘It certainly looks that way.’
We crunched up the pathway and on to the main road.
‘Let’s go the other way today. We always go that way.’
Millie pulled my arm and we turned left, rather than the usual right.
Within minutes, we were heading out of the village and down a dirt track. Up ahead I could see, what looked like a small chapel.
‘What’s that?’ asked Millie, pointing at it.
‘I don’t know. Let’s go and have a closer look.’
As we approached, we could see a low stone wall around it. Encased within it were some old broken gravestones, peeping out from the long grass.
‘Oh it’s church mummy.’
I nodded. It was a tiny little stone chapel. It could have fitted no more than forty people inside. It had a small bell tower, though it looked as though the bell had long since been taken down. Millie was racing ahead, though her progress was encumbered by her wellies. I stopped for a second and lifted my face to the sun, feeling its warmth seep through my skin. When I looked down, I could see that Millie had already reached the low wall and was running alongside it, trying to find a way in. I started to run towards her. It felt good to stretch my legs, though, all too soon, I was out of breath. I had not realised how unfit I had become.
I squelched through the mud beside the wall, following Millie, whose boot got stuck at one point. As we went round to the front of the chapel, we could see a small iron gate.
‘There.’ pointed Millie in delight.

Had I known, what I know now, I would have turned away there and then. Perhaps I might never have even gone that way on our walk. I know ‘if only’ is the lament of many who wish that they could turn back time. But how was I to know that as we creaked open the gate, our lives would be changed forever?


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