Fancy Meeting You Here

Pauline Nevins February 11, 2019 - The Union



I know I’m not the only one who’s stunned when they see someone familiar out of their usual habitat.

My first memory of this was at age 13, seeing my cooking teacher in R. Rowlatt and Sons, Ironmongery and Hardware Merchants, a shop in my hometown on Silver Street. I stood and stared. She was shopping, like any ordinary person. I’d never seen her outside of the classroom where she directed us girls to wash our hands and scrub our nails before we touched a rolling pin.

She knew who I was — mostly because I was one of only four dark-skinned kids in the whole school. But also because I was the girl whose attempt at bread making she held up as an example of how not to. Instead of rising to a soft mound like those of all the other girls, my dough was as hard as a rock chiseled from Hadrian’s Wall. I had killed the yeast. To this day I am immediately intimidated by any recipe that has yeast as an ingredient.

My most recent imitation of a deer in the headlights was on a nippy summer morning in Waterford, Ireland during a recent European vacation. My husband, Jim, and I were on our way to the famous Waterford Crystal showroom.

A short distance from our destination I casually glanced up at a sign on the outside of City Hall. Had the plaque not been bright blue with white lettering, I might have missed it. I stopped abruptly and read these words:

“FREDERICK DOUGLASS AMERICAN ABOLITIONIST SOCIAL REFORMER AND STATESMAN SPOKE IN CITY HALL 9TH OCT-1845.”

Oh my goodness. What was Frederick Douglass, a black slave from America, doing in Ireland in 1845?