Many thanks to the six people who had a go at imagining what this woman is like:
You all portrayed her as a caring woman. Looking at the photograph, I can see why, but we never saw her as caring at all. At least, most of us didn’t.
Two of you rightly assumed the photograph is old. Not from the 1930s or ’40s, but probably the ’60s. We thought she was old then, but times change. We never saw her smile like that, but we did see that necklace.
Some of you portrayed her as having several children, while others said she didn’t have any. But you all thought she loved children. We didn’t see that either but, looking back, maybe she did. Maybe that’s why she went into that profession.
You see, this woman was our headmistress. For most of us – we who are going to meet up soon at a school reunion – she ruled us for seven years. Yes, Marallyn, with a will of iron. But soft spoken? Well yes, I suppose that, too. She had the gift of being able to control the girls without raising her voice. We were scared of her. And that’s not just because we were grammar school girls. The year after we left, the school went comprehensive, but this woman had no trouble controlling the usually unruly girls who were now part of the school.
But, in general, we didn’t feel she was there to help. Meetings with her were never pleasant. I’m not the only one to think she barely hid her antisemitic views – in a school where a third of the pupils were Jewish. She certainly made no attempt to understand my problems.
So no – not a mother, or a librarian, or a backstreet abortionist. And I can’t tell you how often she cleaned her home, or whether she cleaned it at all. But maybe, in some ways, you were closer to the truth than I will ever know.