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October 2018, vol 14 no 3

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Gerry Jacobson,

I Hardly Knew Her

We only had six weeks together in our adult lives. I somehow contrived a couple of work trips where I could spend time in England. That first visit I’d been away 25 years. I’d totally missed her growing up, her marriage. She had A then, he was about three years old, and she was keen on going to places like the Tower of London. We walked arm in arm around West Hampstead, our childhood home. I didn’t remember the urban landscape, but the street names made my hair stand on end.

The grey poverty was still alive then for both of us. In the historic herb garden at Hampton Court she stooped and pulled out a lavender plant and put it in her bag. That shock of awareness. “Oh yes, she also grew up in that slum!”

Was it thirty or so days? Hanging out in her kitchen. Helping her with gardening. Bringing in the washing. Finding stone age artifacts in her Finchley backyard.

She died at forty, suddenly, of a brain haemorrhage. I wasn’t around. Couldn’t get to her funeral. Didn’t know how to grieve. We were so close, Little Sister and I, but I hardly knew her. I went to the local synagogue for the first time and said the mourners’ kaddish.

her birthday
a long time now
pebbles on a marble slab