I walked into her house, damp-eyed. She shuffled over to the kitchen as I took in the main room. It was sparsely furnished, with clear paths to walk to the sofa, the kitchen, and the bedroom. Which made sense, I guess. Mevrou Jacobs uses a white stick, that kind of looks like a candy cane, when she’s out of the house. Probably not something she wants to use all the time in her own home, when she needs to carry things.
“Do you take any sugar?” Mevrou Jacobs asked.
“Um, two please,” I sniffed. Then it hit me: what was I doing standing here crying, when a blind woman is making me tea? “May I help?”
I started towards the kettle, but Mevrou Jacobs batted me back. “I asked you to come inside for tea, not to make my tea,” she said. “I always serve my guests myself.”
And my worries fell to the side as I watched her make the tea. She seemed to know exactly where everything was, as she set two cups on matching saucers, all looking very grand, with their gold rims and tiny flowers painted on the white-white porcelain. When the kettle was boiled, she put the measured leaves, in their little ball, into a matching pot, and poured the water in.
“That is a very pretty tea set,” I said. Then slapped my hand over my mouth, inwardly scolding myself for being so dof.
“It is,” Mevrou Jacobs said. “It was given to me by an employer of mine when I got married. I only have five of the original eight cups, but they fit in my hand so perfectly. They are an utter delight. And every time I hold one, I remember the beautiful flowers.”
She gestured to the tray. “Would you be so kind to carry it over to the coffee table? Thank you.”
Which I did. As I placed it, she came shuffling behind me, and, with a thump, set down a tin of biscuits.
“Almost forgot about these, which would be a travesty.” She gestured towards the sofa, “Do have a seat.”
It wasn’t until she had poured the tea, placing two biscuits on each saucer, that she said, “Now dear, tell me what’s the matter.”
There was no way I was going to tell her what was really the matter. So I explained that I had some school expenses, necessary things, that I was going through faster than my parents could afford.
Mevrou Jacobs nodded. “I remember when my boy went through his biggest growth spurt. I honestly had no idea how I was going to keep him in shoes. One time, he grew out of his school shoes in only two months. I was praying to the Lord, because I didn’t know what else to do.”
She smiled, as she sipped her tea. “Thankfully, my husband picked up some extra work, doing odd jobs, on the weekends. Otherwise, I don’t know what we would have done. I was already taking in extra sewing, just to afford enough extra food to feed my growing child.”
I nodded, then realised she could not see it. But I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say to all of this. Which, in the end, didn’t matter, because then she was talking again, asking me questions about school, my friends, what things I enjoy doing.
I couldn’t understand what any of this had to do with anything. Especially the last question, “Tell me dear, how well do you read in English?”
Tell us: If you are at school, have you ever had to earn money for basic essentials? What did you do to afford them?