Beneath the surface

Many years ago, when I worked in Salisbury at a Neighbourhood House, I met a woman called Olga. She used to come to the House for the lunches we held. I can’t remember now where she originally came from – Germany perhaps, or Poland. I think of her as I get closer to the age she was when I met her – she reminds me of myself a bit. She was middle aged, a bit lumpy, and not at all athletic seeming, arthritic. She had a strong accent, and would talk about her life in the past – nothing much was happening for her in the present it seemed. I was pretty young then, and probably judged her to be insignificant in the same way the culture did – you know how invisible middle-aged, ‘frumpy’ women can be. Anyway, I got my comeuppance one day when she came in with some photographs of herself as a young person. Turns out she had worked in a circus as a contortionist, and the photographs were amazing – it was hard to see the incredibly flexible, lithe and leggy girl in the woman before me, but it was a fantastic reminder that people aren’t merely what they seem, and we can’t always tell much from appearances alone.

contortionist

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