Through the few years of my life, I have realized the importance of respecting the much older and more knowledgeable than myself. Much of this respect is gained by my old and affectionate neighbour. She has made me realize that life is worthwhile right to the very end, through the good times and bad. Living alone and having spent nearly all her life in the urban area of Luton, she has titled herself as a brave and strong-hearted woman. Many neighbours get on with their lives and the only thing they will ever pass by is the formal, “Hello, how are you?” But Louise Hawkes has stood out and remained as a caring individual.
Mrs. Hawkes was born in the county of Staffordshire near the countryside where her father owned a farm. This farm was passed down by her ancestors and it had become one of the family traditions. She was the youngest of four sisters and the most loved by her father. She recalls her childhood as her most prominent memory which didn’t last for more than four years into her life. The relationship she had with her father was more of a friend rather than a parent and this relationship was envied by all her older sisters. She relates her childhood with the story of Cinderella, but in her case, she could be considered as the stubborn, horrible one while her sisters would assemble the hard-working Cinders.
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On a typical day on the farm, she would get up early in the morning and trod along to where her father was already ploughing the fields. Helpful and thoughtful as she has always been, she would start to pull on a carrot: “Hello, Carrot! Ready to help again?” Her father would tease because he knew that his young, energetic daughter wouldn’t succeed in pulling a carrot out. “You know I’m going to pull it out and prove to you that the carrot isn’t stronger than myself!” Mrs. Hawkes would scream at the big, brown tractor at which her father was sitting on top. She would never manage to pull one out, but the effort she put into one small carrot was greatly appreciated by her father. That typical conversation with her father had bought them closer together and it had made their relationship very inimitable.
Her childhood could be one of the reasons why she loves children ever so much. The warmth and understanding that she shows towards young kids can be felt in what she has to say. One of the main regrets she has from life is that she didn’t get the chance to rear her own offspring. A woman with so much understanding for people younger than herself can not be imagined without children herself, but this is what has made her stand out from others. She has proven that she can support herself without her having the trust and encouragement of people very dear to her. The happiness that she had loved only lasted for four years. The death of her father had also killed the cheerfulness and togetherness at the farm. Her mother couldn’t manage the farm by herself so it had to be sold off.
The fields which her father had once ploughed were no longer theirs along with most of the animals and their huge farmhouse. At the age of four, Mrs. Hawkes and her innocent sisters, along with their helpless mother, moved on to live with their grandmother in Cambridgeshire. Her grandmother didn’t own much: two rooms, two chairs and two black cats. These were the first things that Mrs. Hawkes couldn’t help noticing, but little did she know at the time that she was going to spend much of her earlier years in this small cottage. Mrs. Hawkes never had a very deep and bonded relationship with her mother, and her sisters weren’t close to her either. She didn’t feel comfortable at the time but in a few months, she was very much close to her eldest sister, Joanne. She considered Joanne the most matured and the most respected as she had given up her education to support her mother.
Her mother worked in the evenings as a cleaner at the local Town Hall, while Joanne looked after her grandmother, Lynette, Kerry and Mrs. Hawkes. The next few years of her life were greatly devoted to her grandmother and Joanne had become her mother figure. Mrs. Hawkes’s actual mother was working day and night to earn money on which the family could survive. She clearly remembers her mother becoming weak and weaker day by day and she also remembers asking her elder sister, Joanne, what was happening to her. She was only ten at the time: “What’s wrong with Mummy and why doesn’t she come home in the mornings?” She asked innocently. “I don’t think she will ever come home in a couple of weeks,” Joanne replied with an understanding of what might happen to her.
Mrs. Hawkes didn’t understand at the time the very words of her sister, but in a couple of weeks her mother never did return home; she had died. Her grandmother died six months later because of depression and old age. Joanne joined up her mother’s post at the Town Hall and Lynette, the second eldest, had taken up Joanne’s job of looking after the two younger ones. Every single day was the same for Mrs. Hawkes, until the age of nineteen. She met her spouse at the local market. He sold ripe and fresh vegetables, under his father’s business. It was through this daily routine that John proposed to her and were the major problems had started. All the sisters, including Joanne, objected to this proposal. Days and nights were spent arguing about this marriage and Joanne had clearly announced that she was going to marry the sisters off in the order they were born in. Mrs. Hawkes had agreed as well but neither Lynette nor Kerry wanted to get married.
These arguments had forced her to leave the small cottage and stand up on her own feet. Mrs. Hawkes, who had been brought up by her sisters, left them for her spouse. She still regrets it and she’s always in search of where they may be. She’s always telling me about how much my parents love and care for me and that they are probably right and I’m in the wrong: “What’s the matter?” She would ask in concern, if she sees me walking to the bus stop in a mood, “Argued with anyone, again?” “I don’t care about anyone so why do they stop me from doing things that I want to do?!” “So it’s mum or dad, isn’t it? Tell me the whole matter and I’m sure I’ll work out who’s right and who’s wrong.” So I would tell her that mum and dad are stopping me from doing so and so and that they let my brother do anything he wants to do.
“You’re clearly in the wrong,” she would reply positively and calmly, “and you know that. Your brother is a year older than you he is matured and he can take care of himself. Staying out till 8 pm is certainly wrong for girls like you. You don’t know what men go around doing out there. Oh, did you watch “Crime Watch” last night? I think your parents are right not letting you go out of the house. Oh, and on the news, they were saying that a couple of women got raped-” “- But it doesn’t get dark until nine in most evenings.” ” And you know those women? They’re terrified of leaving the house. I don’t know why you are allowed to walk to the bus stop. I think you should get a taxi or something. Oh no! Don’t take a taxi! You don’t know what some of them are like. In “Crime Watch” they were saying that a taxi driver raped a passenger in broad daylight and they were also saying that-”
” -I’m sorry I’ve got to go otherwise I’m going to miss the bus.” ” Take care. Don’t talk to anyone that you don’t know and certainly put that phone away. On “Crime Watch” a Girl got shot in the head for her phone-” I know that she’s still shouting behind at me about all the incidents that she heard on “Crime Watch” or the latest on the news. Mrs. Hawkes is always talking about safety and how one should remain alert about everything around them. She actually told us not to come around after 6 pm because she won’t open the door or even get up to look at who that person on the door is.
Lately, she has become very scared of opening the door in the morning. A disguised person knocked on her door at around 8 pm and said that he wanted to search her house as she has given a room to a tenant. Mrs. Hawkes refused to let him in as the Town Hall hadn’t told her about the incident. She told that man she was going to ring the Townhall and find out and the man ran away. After this incident, she’s had two cameras put up, in the front and back gardens, three floodlights and a burglar alarm. She’s waiting for her next pension so that she can have cameras put around the whole house. It’s quite a spectacular view from my bedroom window to see three floodlights going off at the same time on the movement of a tree or even if the washing line sways an inch!
After her marriage with Mr. Hawkes, the wedded couple moved down to the town of Luton and settled in a rather huge house for two people. She was around about twenty at the time when war broke out. Her husband was forced to leave his new partner and go off fighting. Mrs. Hawkes knew that there was a highly unlikely chance of ever seeing him again, but he had promised that once he came back, they would go and spend their honeymoon in Scotland. But the saddest that has always remained is that he never did come back and the honeymoon has remained as a fantasy that will never be fulfilled. Only two months into her marriage, Mrs. Hawkes had become a widow.
She tried very hard to get in contact with her sisters, but all of them refused to speak to her. Luton was a totally new area and she knew no one that would help her get a job. The next five years were certainly a fight for survival for her and she only lived on rations. There was no financial support until the war came to an end. All her sisters had gone helping the soldiers at war and Joanne and Lynette died in service. Kerry however had survived but nobody knew where she had gone or whether she was alive or not. The war ended and the remaining soldiers came home, but Mr. Hawkes was not in the group of survivors. Mrs. Hawkes had started work in the local supermarket. She had enough education and numerical skills to qualify as a cashier. This new supermarket was the craze of the town and was called, “Henson’s”.
She clearly remembers customers queuing up to get a taste for what’s in store and it was always packed right down to its closing hours: “I had never seen so many people with trolleys filled to the rim and it was even more popular than the market. One thing I hated was the uniform! They were like big, brown bed sheets and didn’t fit any one of us!” Financially, Mrs. Hawkes was managing flawlessly with a bit of money to spare. With the extra money, she bought a 14″ television and the news spread very quickly. Every night, neighbours and friends would come and watch a film, which was on every evening. Her much forgotten huge house was packed with people crowding around a small box. She would organize some drinks and everybody loved it: “It was like a theatre in here. Some people couldn’t even see the screen but were startled just by the sound!”
Mrs. Hawkes had worked in the same supermarket all her life and left it when it closed down. Since then, she has lived a much gentle and serene life, most of which is committed to a garden. Her garden is exceptionally beautiful and stands out from the dull, dismal gardens surrounding hers. The time and effort put into planting rare plants and a huge conifer tree is merely done to please herself and the green turf surrounding it. I can clearly remember the occasion where she was struggling to trim her turf with the oldest lawnmower in the world. She’s got a gigantic garden and she wasn’t going to be successful in using an ancient machine. It didn’t run off electricity, but an enormous motor. My mother decided to join her in clipping our own garden down.
My mother, having the finest and hi-tech lawnmower in the world, trimmed our garden down in a matter of minutes, while Mrs, Hawkes, being roundabout eighty, was struggling to get hers started. So, my mother decided to go and do hers as well. “Be careful around the tree, you know John planted that. Oh! You missed my crimson chrysanthemums by an inch. You are certainly not careful with that thing, are you? Watch the dahlias! There sixty pence for a bulb.” My mother doesn’t like being told what to do but didn’t say anything to the instructions Mrs. Hawkes was shouting out at her. ” You know that rose bush, John planted it. He loves roses; he called me his rose. Be careful! You nearly had a rose swallowed in that machine of yours!”
Watching from my garden, I understood that Mrs. Hawkes, being cheerful as she always is, was trying to make a sheer effort of having a conversation. My mother, on the other hand, doesn’t like being disturbed while at work, so she doesn’t even attempt to respond. Suddenly, my mother lets out a huge scream. “What happened? Is that a dahlia I can see! Good heavens! How could you kill that poor flower! I told you they were expensive!” My mother on the other hand was screaming about the blade of her expensive lawnmower: “My blade has moved out of its position. Do you know how much this will cost me? Certainly more than sixty pence!”
I quickly ran over to the garden where havoc was created while my mother screamed about her blade and Mrs. Hawkes about her dahlia. I then realized that there was a dead frog lying there which my mother had scythed, which made the lawnmower jump into a dahlia. I was shocked at the fact that both of them worried about their belongings but no one cared to look at this innocent dead frog with blood oozing out of it! So from now on, either my brother or myself, have to go and trim Mrs. Hawkes’s green turf minding the precious dahlias.
Mrs. Hawkes cares for everyone and birthdays can be times in which she shows her friendliness. It was my birthday the previous week and I went over to her house to give some birthday cake to her. I have to be very careful with the time I go, certainly before 6 pm. In return, I would always get a ½2 coin, wrapped up in intricate tissue paper. It used to be ½1 before the ½2 coin was invented. I believe that is what has made her special. Expensive gifts lose their value after some time, but a ½2 coin can never lose its significance.
Mrs. Hawkes has proven to be a very benevolent and thoughtful lady. Throughout her life, she has suffered from many tragedies: the death of her father and being widowed two months after her marriage. But the main thing is that she never gave up; she stood up in the most bravest of ways. She has smiled through her life and remained energetic, right up to crouching on a walking stick. I have never seen her lose her temper as she’s always happy. The horrible truth is that she is alone: no children, no husband and no other relative. But I will always respect her for her courage and for the times when she’s cared for me. It’s amazing what a two-pound coin can do to a never-ending relationship with a neighbour.
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