So, as a child, I didn't like having to give lifts to strangers, but my mum was a warm, gregarious woman who enjoyed engaging with people of diverse backgrounds - especially young people - and as I reflect on this with the benefit of these extra years, I now envy her. I wish I had her ability to chat with ease to anyone, the same openness of her heart and the generosity of her gestures.
One day, by which time I was a young teenager and my mum now separated from my dad, she came home from a long journey and spoke enthusiastically of a hitchhiker whose company she'd enjoyed for several miles. It seemed as if a special kind of friendship had been formed even in that short time and in spite of them being disparate characters - she a middle-aged mother and he a young, long-haired hippie type by all accounts, but with the added exotic credentials of being French and also (or so he told her) having some Native American ancestry. From what I remember her telling my sister and me, it didn't matter that they were ostensibly so different as they talked about philosophy and art, about spiritual and cultural beliefs - deep and stimulating conversation from the sound of it, and as far away from the usual bland small talk as you can get. Mum was most enamoured of him, her eyes flashing with excitement as she described him and shared his stories and insights with us, just as her passenger had with her earlier. "And I told him to come and visit us any time, if he's ever in this area," she concluded.
"Mum!" my big sister and I exclaimed, in a manner more suited to that of a parent admonishing their child, "You mean you gave him our address?!" We were not impressed.
"Well, yes of course," she confirmed, unperturbed by our reaction.
This was Mum all over. Trusting. Maybe too trusting? But she had helped out waifs and strays before (and perhaps I'll write about those too in another post); it was just in her nature.
It was about a year or two later I guess, hard to say as the passage of time seems to move at a different speed when you're younger, nevertheless it had been many months after Mum's encounter that I came home from school and she said we had a visitor. He had turned up out of the blue, having walked some distance through the town (and perhaps the county), carrying a piece of paper with our address on and eventually finding his way to our front door. And he was welcomed warmly, sleeping on the camp bed in our living room for just one night before continuing on his wanders, the perfect house-guest, grateful, kind and honest, no money went missing, no privacy was breached (mutually!): a hitchhiking French hippie with Native American ancestry. It was a sweet, simple reminder of what it is to truly trust a stranger. Proof, I believe, that most people are good.
And on that cheery note - Happy New Year!
Not mum's actual car