Happy Agatha Day! It feels a little like we’re in a strange, alternate world right now, doesn’t it? I hope you’re all hanging in there and treating yourselves well. This month’s Agatha quote feels especially appropriate for this time.
“Life is really like a ship — the interior of a ship, that is. It has watertight compartments. You emerge from one, seal and bolt the doors, and find yourself in another. My life from the day we left Southampton to the day we returned to England was one such compartment. Ever since that I have felt the same about travel. You step from one life into another. You are yourself, but a different self.”
Context: This paragraph opens a new section where Agatha is talking about how it felt to return from an exciting but grueling international tour for her first husband’s job. She muses about how strange it can feel to return from such a trip, how foreign your old life can seem after such a long period of being abroad.
Why I Chose It: For me, it really does capture what it’s like to go through something and then “return” to your previous life. You’re not the same person. It has echoes of the title of the Thomas Wolfe book, You Can’t Go Home Again. And while Agatha was referring to traveling, it’s so applicable to any life journey. When you go through something, it changes you, shaping you into a modified version of the person you were. As she says, “You are yourself, but a different self.”
We’re all going through something major right now, and we’ll come out of it changed. For some people, it will be in minor ways, and for others, they will feel like they have become entirely different people. But what I find especially hopefully is that through implies movement, forward progress. Eventually we will arrive somewhere else. One day, we’ll emerge from this compartment, and we’ll seal the door behind us, moving forward as different selves. Until then, hold onto the hope of that day with as much strength as you can summon and be kind to yourself and to each other.
Happy February! As this is the month in which we celebrate Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be especially appropriate if I shared an Agatha Christie quote about her husband. (Her second husband. The good one.)
“I thought then, and indeed have thought ever since, what a wonderful person Max is. He is so quiet, so sparing with words of commiseration. He does things. He does just the things you want done and that consoles you more than anything else could.”
Context: After her first marriage ended, Agatha seized the freedom to travel, leaving her daughter in the care of Agatha’s sister. She was visiting an archaeologist and his wife in Iraq when she first met Max Mallowan, the archaeologist’s assistant. He was promptly tasked with showing her around and escorting her from one city to another.
They were in Greece when Agatha received a set of telegrams informing her that her daughter, Rosalind, was ill with pneumonia. While arranging return travel, Agatha sprained her ankle rather badly. Max immediately changed his plans so he could accompany Agatha back to England and provide any assistance she might need along the way. This quote falls in the midst of that story, as Agatha is considering the kindness Max showed then and in later years.
Why I Chose It: Well, it’s about love, for one thing. I appreciate seeing people speak positively about their spouses, emphasizing their positive traits. And it shows what Agatha appreciated in a partner—specifically, the consideration Max demonstrated. Since they weren’t married during the story she’s recounting, it also reveals what might’ve first attracted Agatha to Max.
As someone who is married to a kind and considerate human, I can tell you, those traits are far too often overlooked in favor of the flashier ones. But in my view, kindness is the purest and most beautiful trait in a spouse. Pretty words and grand gestures are great, but when you’ve sprained your ankle and are worried about a loved one, you want someone who’s there, who’s looking out for you, choosing small, considerate actions over words. That’s the kind of love that stands the test of time.