When I was a youngster, my mother would take me, my brothers and sisters (about 7 of us) to the Blue Bell woods. It wasn't too far to go and it was so lovely there. The whole ground was a blue carpet – a haze of blue, when it was Blue Bell time.
Everywhere but one little spot, no Blue Bells ever grew there. It was just overgrown – except when it was covered in the beautiful golden marigolds! We used to wonder why there were not Blue Bells growing, just in this little patch. We asked Mam if she knew why. She never seemed to know and simply changed the subject. As time went by, we stopped asking her. We just accepted it was nature and, being nature, it had its reasons.
Time went by and, one by one, my siblings wended their way into the grown up world and we grew apart.
Mam lived in our house by herself for many, many years telling us tales of the gypsies living nearby. I often thought, perhaps she was a gypsy because of her curly black hair and deep dark brown eyes. I just listened with the others to her tales.
I married when I was just 17 years old to a lovely young man named Michael and we had a canny brood ourselves – not 7 children, just 5! 3 boys and 2 girls. I took them, on occasions, to the Blue Bell wood, just as Mam had taken me. I told them stories, passed down from mother to child. The wood never altered – with its haze of blue and later, with its patch of marigolds. Questions were asked but I couldn't answer them.
My youngest daughter, dark like her Grannie, we named her Mary – to be different to my name Marie. As she grew up she became very insistent and wouldn't let the 'mystery of the woods' alone.
Then, one day we were in the woods, just Mary and me, when we met an old lady, a very old lady, stooped and weary she was. She was looking at the marigold patch with a lot of joy and sadness. We went up to her, she looked so frail. I was frightened for her.
She just smiled and held out her hand, a weather-beaten hand, to mine and said, "You must be Marie". I was amazed she knew who I was. "I think I must be your Grannie Sadie. I lived here in the woods when I was a little girl – we had a gypsy camp up yonder" – pointing to the clearing to the left of where we were standing. "How is your mother?" she asked. I had to tell her my beloved mother had passed away, not a month ago. She held tight to my hand, so I asked her if she would like to come back to the house with Mary and me.
She was delighted. We walked slowly home and, once there, Mary began her questions! I tried to silence her, but the old lady, my Grannie, said, "Let her be" so I did! We both learned such a lot from her that day!!
Seems that, years ago, she too had been happily married but her husband, "Grayson", had been killed in an accident when she was expecting another baby. He never saw their new baby she said. He would have loved her, as he had loved my mother. Yes, a sister for Sally, my lovely mother. My grandfather was buried, gypsy fashion, next to the gypsy camp. Not so for my Auntie, for that she would have to be – she was put to rest in the Blue Bell wood where now the Marigolds bloomed. My MAM was the only one who knew where the baby lay and had kept the secret all her life.
After the news, we felt sad for Sadie, my grandmother. Then Mary cheered us up by pronouncing that she was called Mary Elizabeth Gold. "Well, Mary my dear that means your mother is "Marie Gold" – what do you think of that" – the old lady said with a smile. We all had a hug, – generations so glad to be together.
From that special day, we have all become close. She has met my Michael, our sons and daughters and their children. She was in her "element" as the saying goes. Now she has gone but there will be a lot of talk going on up in heaven and we all know we will be watched over, with love.