The rented car came to a noisy halt on front of the place which had become a yearly pilgrim spot for the family but something made it feel different this time. I knew deep in my heart this would be our last visit and a bitter sweet feeling griped my heart. Laurie quickly getting out of the dilapidated car to help me out, but even at the age of 86 I could easily beat her. Accompanying us was my great grandson Rob and his jar of butterflies which he refused to let of off.
This was our yearly ritual, coming down to India. The whole drill – arranging our stay, hiring a car, booking our appointment and finally driving down to the Kirkee cemetery, everything was taken care of by Laurie. She never let these things bother me, for some reason she understood me better than my own daughter.
I hurried to the spot, I could differentiate it from far even though they all looked identical. 3.J.14, Hector Marvin Jaffe. Rob helped me kneel in front of the head stone. I closed my eyes. The tickling smell of freshly mowed grass took me back to the day I had first met Hector, at the army ball where I was invited as a civilian. The garden where the ball was held was brightly lit and the smell of the freshly mowed grass still lingered in the air. A skinny young boy came up to me, visibly nervous and trying hard not to show it. Very politely he came and stood in front of me. It took him some time before he introduced himself as Cadet Hector Jaffe, as if he was gathering all the energy to speak. Finally he asked if I would dance the next song with him and I obliged. This was my first dance with a boy and my heart was racing as he put his arms around my waist. I could feel the heat in my cheek and hated the idea that he could see that. We just looked at each other and smiled. It took us a few moments before we realized that the song was long over.
Hector volunteered to walk me home after the ball. We talked about everything and anything and it felt as if we were just getting started but in no time I was standing in front of my house. I turned to him and looked into his deep black eyes and felt his warm lips against mine. And under the twinkling stars I had my first kiss. As we parted that night I knew I had given my heart away.
In the months that followed we spent more and more time together, met each other’s family and soon we were engaged with our wedding date set a month later.
As newly weds we were inseparable, we were busy setting up our home in the midst of World War II. A time when most people lost their homes and families we were beginning our. I could never shake the feeling that Hector would be called on duty soon and it was not long before he got that call to serve his country.
The first few month were unbearable as I barely heard from him. It became worse as the war grew denser and the calls from became rare. The plight of not being with your husband was hard enough but the thought that he would never know that he had fathered a child was worse.
By 1944 the whole world had been sucked into the war. Every evening I would sit by the radio when the names of the lost soldiers were read out, hoping and praying I would never hear Hector’s name. One such stormy evening, I was in the eighth month of my pregnancy I had just settled in front of the radio and then I heard his name. The devastation was unimaginable, my world had just collapsed and there was only darkness in front of me. I woke up in the hospital with my mother beside me who told me I had just had a baby girl. Hector’s mother brought my baby to me. She looked so much like Hector, and I found a reason to live again. I closed my eyes and remembered Hector, the first time we had met, our first kiss.
“Can I open it! Can I open it!” Rob’s voice brought me back to the present. I knew this was my last visit and I would soon be with Hector. I looked at Rob and smiled, “Go ahead dear, open it, your great grand pa loved butterflies”.