I encountered an interesting old, old lady this week. She made me cry.

Well, she didn’t intend to. I didn’t know her. And it wasn’t her so much, rather her whole situation.

We took some Grade 3 students to visit the Nursing Home across the road and I watched with pride and wonderment as these kids, who run around like crazies most of the day, presented themselves as polite, sweet cherubs. They chatted to the residents in rehearsed sentences, making friendly enquiries about families, children, lives.

Most of the elderly ladies, seated at Bingo tables in lavender and silky scarves, chatted to them about kittens, First Communions and school. Both parties were doing a good job at making pleasent conversation.

Except for one lady, hunched over a walking frame, reciting poetry in a loud and commanding voice to an 8 year old audience of mesmorised (although somewhat frightened) children. These kids stood in front of her like statues, with glassy, teary eyes as they listened to her speak with grand gestures.

It was a moment in which the Earth seemed to stand still. I watched the old lady and the children, and no one else in the world existed. Them and Me. Me and them. When I glanced up at my best friend, another teacher who came along, I knew she had seen the water creeping into my eyes.

Especially when a little boy whispered, “You’ve got a real talent there!” A smile lit up the lady’s face and she exclaimed, “Fancy you telling me something like that! Gosh!”

The lady told me she was 89. Born on the West Australian goldfields, she used to recite that poem, in the same clear, commanding voice, when she was young. I imagined her narrating in front of large crowds. Except that now she only speaks to the same people, other resident and visiting strangers. And I dreaded that day, if it ever comes, when I will have wisdom and experience, but no room left for fresh new future dreams…

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