By the time I boarded the train in Toronto there weren’t very many empty seats in the London bound rail car. I spotted a window seat beside an older lady and politely asked permission to sit beside her.
Turns out she was a good choice for a seat companion and the trip went by in a flash.
She was in her early 70’s. Immaculately dressed, hair coiffed, beautiful gold earring’s, charcoal pearls around her neck and a gold ring set with an emerald stone on her right hand. She had taken great care in applying her eyeliner, mascara and a deep shade of rose lipstick.
She was dressed to impressed and 30 minutes into the ride I found out why.
“We had wonderful British old-maids as teachers at school and we learned a lot. One teacher in particular was always so well dressed, you know what she taught us?”.
She took a deep breath, didn’t wait for me to guess an answer, she leaned in, her eyes kind and she said in her smooth voice, “she told us that we honour the day by dressing well. No matter what, we should take pride in our appearance.”
Want to know what I was wearing as I hung my head in utter shame?
Rolled up sweaty track pants, flip flops, an old tee-shirt and a baseball cap. I didn’t feel she was addressing my choice of wardrobe, on the contrary she was reflecting on herself but I couldn’t help wondering how smelly I might be.
We chatted about life, travel, old romantic English movies and philosophers (although she had a leg up on me on this topic!). We talked about great minds who have lived in our life time. She told me about her experience listening to Bora Laskin at the University, Camille Paglia and Margaret Atwood.
She recounted the scandalous story of John MacDonald the surgeon. The story that didn’t turn out so scandalous after all when his new young stewardess bride ended up raising his 4 children as her own after his untimely death.
We talked about women’s rights and raising children.
“I had my first child at 23 and it was me as a child raising a child. If I could be a mother today, I would do a better job. I would know how to better direct them. Not that I did a terrible job then, I would be much better prepared if I had of been older.”
I share her sentiment! Not that I have children and may never have one but if I do I am certainly better prepared as a 30-something than I would have been as a 20-something.
Early in the trip she told me a story of a woman she used to work with. Each night after this woman left the office she would practise her skill in creating art, her passion. Today the lady is making a more than comfortable living creating art, discovered quietly by chance at a street festival.
My new friend described it as the following,
“Chance favours the prepared mind”.
That was the comment that had me putting down my book and giving her all my attention…$72.32 well spent.