By Sharon Lynch
It’s funny how sometimes thoughts just pop into your head and surprise you. So thought Monika as she worked outside. The day was unusually mild. She had managed to put up the outdoor Christmas lights, even though the holidays weren’t due for a month and a half. Not wanting to deal with freezing fingers and cold travelling right up her arms to her shoulder, she had opted to get the job done in sunshine and shirt sleeves.
This was to be an experimental year for the lights. Last year, every single string – and she had had four different ones – had been chewed by creatures unknown. But, she had a pretty good idea it had been squirrels in the cedars. A first. So, this time Monika placed her new lights away from anything that looked squirrel-friendly.
By now the leaves were all down, leaving the trees like long fingers grabbing at a softly blue sky. Green grass continued to carpet her yard while those darn squirrels ran about gathering the last of the black walnuts.
Life was good. She had that flush of accomplishment as she stood back to look at the results of her efforts. And for some reason that was when the thought suddenly appeared. Anna.
Anna had been Monika’s best friend through high school. Back then, they had both been on the outside of the popular cliques of cheerleaders and party-goers. Studious, serious girls, they had hung out together in the cafeteria at lunchtime and then often at each other’s house after school. When it was time to move on, Anna had gone to one university and Monika another. And so, they had drifted apart.
Now, since all this was back in the dinosaur days, Monika didn’t know if Anna was even still alive. But, she was curious. Had Anna’s life turned out the way she had wanted? Both girls had had dreams of a future full of art, music and travel. For Monika trade-offs and necessity had often dictated her choices and she wondered what Anna’s experiences had been.
After putting away the step ladder and coming indoors for a cup of tea, Monika did what anyone would do for information. She went to the internet. Not expecting much, she typed in Anna’s full name, wondering if the name was even the same. After all, often women married and, especially in the dinosaur days, their names changed when that happened. But, Anna had had a very distinctive last name so Monika hoped it hadn’t changed.
Anna’s family had come to Canada from the Balkans after the Second World War. Monika remembered how different Anna’s house had looked from her own. Sparsely furnished with bare wooden floors, colourfully woven fabric on the back of chairs and items made of amber resting on a side table. Anna’s parents both worked, which was not usual in those days or in that neighbourhood. So, Anna had more freedom than Monika but never took advantage of that. They were such good girls, Monika mused as she scrolled down some names on the screen.
Then she thought she had found something. There was a website that looked promising. And, a picture of a woman. Monika looked closely, trying to make out the features. The woman had illustrated a book about women in the Balkans. It fit. The name, the face and the information. But, this Anna now lived in Germany, via Australia. Monika wondered if this could still be the same person.
However, people had moved around after being displaced by the war. But, why Australia and Germany? Then a thought occurred to Monika. What if there had been more to Anna’s family history? Had her parents really been who and what they had claimed to be upon entering Canada? Not everyone had been and many slipped through the cracks.
As she turned on the kettle for another tea, Monika decided to think about all this a little more before proceeding further. After all, some things lost should maybe remain that way.