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The Sad Woman

The Sad Woman

Childhood memories sometimes surprise us.

Standing outside the curio shop looking through the display window, Tanya watched the woman standing at the counter inside. She had sad eyes. She wondered what had happened in the woman’s life to make her look this way. Tanya could almost feel the sadness herself just by looking at her..

She took her eyes off the sad woman and looked in the display window and a child’s miniature china tea set caught her eye. Tiny white plates with small red flowers around the edges, matching cups and saucers, teapot, sugar and creamer set. As she remembered it, the little tea set was very much like the one she had as a child.

It brought back memories of her and her brother sitting on the lawn outside having a 'picnic' with the tea set and arrowroot biscuits. Her brother would always ruin the game by hiding the biscuits and it always made her cry because he wouldn’t play the game properly. Mummy could never play with her. Poor mummy never had time for anything except work, cleaning and cooking. She was always too busy and she never had enough time.

Tanya ’s mother, Elaine, was 80 years old now and living in an aged care facility. She would visit her mother at least once every week. Tanya wished there was something she could do to spark her mother’s interest instead of having her sit in front of the television all day. Tanya thinks she's given up, that her mother thinks there is nothing important left to think or talk about when you have reached 80 years of age.

Well,” thought Tanya, “I'm going to show her there are still interesting and fun things to do and look forward to.

With a spring in her step, Tanya stepped into the shop to have a proper look around. It was like stepping into a time-warp. She spotted an old dolls pram with lovely lace bedding. The bedding on the pram was a light yellow colour with small white polka dots, and it was all edged with fine white lace. The tiny crib next to it had matching bedding. She wondered how many little girls had played with these and how much fun they'd had.

It was time to go but Tanya couldn't see the shopkeeper anywhere. She rang the little desk bell and out shuffled a different woman to the one she had seen earlier. Tanya made her purchase and left. As she was leaving the store she turned around and saw the sad lady in the shop again. She waved and got a wave in return. Tanya resolved to go back there on her way home from visiting her mother.

After she had finished getting ready she grabbed her things and set off to see her. Her mother's face lit up when she saw Tanya. Mummy was wearing the fine cotton pink dress Tanya had bought her for Christmas. She didn’t see her mother wearing it often and had wondered if her mother actually liked the dress. Tanya remembered it was similar to one Mummy had worn a long time ago.

Perhaps she only wore it because she knew I was coming to visit,” thought Tanya.

She held out her hand and said, “Come on Mum, we’re going for a stroll.”

The grounds here were beautiful. Tanya noticed a lovely spot near the yellow rose bushes. There was a small white iron lace table and chairs. Beside the table was a lattice garden arch covered in ivy. The light perfume from the rose bushes lingered across the area where they were sitting.

Tanya held out her hand to her mother and directed her to the table.

“Do you remember the yellow rose bushes we had had when we lived at Sara Street, Tanya? I’m sure that’s the very same perfume. That certainly brings back a few memories of our time in that house,” said Elaine .

Tanya hadn’t noticed it before but now Mummy had said it, she believed it was the same smell.

“I brought us a little drink and a snack, Mum.” Tanya laid out a small lace tablecloth, reached into her basket and withdrew two tiny china teacups and saucers. One she put in front of Mummy and the other was for herself. Next she brought out the tiny teapot, creamer jug and sugar bowl. Next out came six arrowroot biscuits which Tanya arranged nicely on a napkin on the table.

"Would you like to pour, Mummy? "

Her mother was staring down at her miniature cup and Tanya saw one little tear fall into her mother's teacup. Tanya reached out and held her mother’s hand and said, "It's okay, Mummy. I always knew we would have time for this, now eat your biscuits before someone steals them." This made them both laugh.

Tanya reached into her bag and drew out a couple of Kleenex. As she handed them to her mother she noticed all the biscuits were gone. She smiled but said nothing. After they'd had their second ‘cup of tea’, Tanya packed up and helped her mother back into her room. It was time for her afternoon rest.

While her mother slept, Tanya arranged the miniature china tea set on a shelf in her mother’s room. She kissed her mother’s forehead as she slept, then headed for home. She had to walk past the curio shop on her way so stopped to have another look in the window. She saw the sad looking woman and waved to her from outside the shop and the sad woman waved back. She didn't seem so sad today though. Tanya stepped inside and rang the little desk bell. Out came the woman she spoke to last time.

"May I speak with the other woman who works here please? "

"I'm sorry madam, I'm the only person who has worked here for the last forty-five years. I own the shop."

Tanya was rendered speechless for a moment.

“Are you sure?” asked Tanya

“Well I think I would know if I had employed someone and I think I would remember it seeing as I’ve owned the shop for so long,” the owner replied indignantly.

Tanya ’s mind started swimming, trying to piece together what was happening. She ran outside and looked through the window glass and saw the sad woman AGAIN. Then she realised the sad woman looked suspiciously like herself. She waved and her reflection waved back at her. Tanya smiled and her reflection smiled back. The sad lady was no longer sad. Tanya strolled home slowly, feeling saddened herself but not sure why.

Two months later Tanya received a call from the aged care facility telling her that her mother had passed away peacefully during the night.

Tanya walked into her mother’s room to start packing her things up when a nurse entered the room and held out her hand.

“This was in your mother’s hand when we came to call her for breakfast this morning.” Tanya looked down at a small china tea cup. One small tear dropped into the cup.

After the nurse walked away Tanya continued packing her mothers things. She took the pink dress off the hanger and realised there was something in the pocket. Reaching inside, she smiled when she pulled out five arrowroot biscuits. Perhaps her mother knew all along that her brother stole the arrowroot biscuits. Perhaps her mother used to watch them play and she never knew.


Tanya 's 40-year-old mother looked out of the kitchen window at her 5-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son sitting on the lawn playing with the little china tea set. It usually ended up with Tanya crying and yelling at her brother. Of course later when she was doing the laundry she would find half a dozen arrowroot biscuits in his pocket.

She then remembered the box of toys the children no longer played with that she had ready to take to the curio shop. Mummy marched outside and gathered up the tea set to put in the box with the other toys. She was tired of the children fighting when they played with it.

Elaine was standing inside the shop waiting at the counter. She looked outside through the glass window and caught sight of a very sad looking woman...

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