Saturday, 25 January 2014

BESIDE the JIGSAW table...

Beside the jigsaw table stands a mug of hot water, tepid now and mostly undrunk. All the edges of the jigsaw are complete, bar one missing piece, and a picture emerges, moth-eaten and frayed in the centre. Outside owls hoot as they have always done; a sound so redolent of this little room enclosed in the night time, atop this house where so much life has been lived.

She sits hunched over the board, her long bent fingers brushing the chaos of pieces as if drawing music out of the colours. On the chair next to her is a little, rather threadbare, toy fox. I pick it up. Its stuffing is firm and unyielding, like stuffed toys used to be. "It is over 70 years old." she says, "I had it when I was ten."

There is a story; a story I have known since I was very small. It was always told with the ring of laughter, but its repetition spoke of darker fears. There was a spinster aunt, whom she loved dearly, and with whom as a special treat she would visit to stay for a night or two. This aunt was full of character, and drove a car when it was almost unheard of for a woman to drive; and she drove it with a reckless zeal. She was artistic and bohemian, had a female lover (although we did not talk about it in those days) and she was ferociously clever and independent. On one visit to her aunt, when she was about 10 years old, the aunt jokingly said to her, "My dear, you have been SOO good I think I might want to keep you here to live with me." But she didn't know if she was joking or serious. Every time after that, when she went to visit the aunt, she was terrified that she would never return to her home or see her mother again. She then got this fox and it became her talisman. It was always by her side. She took it everywhere to watch over her and to ensure that she would always get safely back home. She walked together with that fox through the night time valleys of those ten year old's deepest fears.

She tells me the story again and as she tells it she absent-mindedly brushes its muzzle with the back of her fingers and I don't know what to say, no longer knowing quite how to relate to this very elderly woman, bent like the hawthorns on Windmill Hill, but who is also the mother who chased away my childhood nightmares, and who, even now, is this little ten year old girl, with her fox who is watching over her, facing into the dark night from which she fears she will never return.

We turn off the light. An owl shrieks in the tree next to the house and through the dormer window there are stars and the black silhouettes of geese in flight. All I can do is smile a smile of understanding that says 'I understand and that its ok that I understand.'

19 comments:

  1. Wow what a powerful scene you create here and what vivid memories that she has...this was beautiful.

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    1. Thank you - yes, for many years those memories have been a comfort to her. Now fears (some old and many new) are beginning to weave themselves through those happy times.

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  2. So beautiful Richard, its like a photograph done with words. Just brilliant. xo

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    1. Thank you Joy. I know that you have been here too. x

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  3. The text is excellent as always. As persons, behavour and conditions create a story in which the reader can find a fundamental humanism.

    Have a nice week.
    Yannis Politopoulos

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  4. Oh my, such love and tenderness in your words. Thoughtful understanding of seeing how a person is and how they once were. Brilliant!

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    1. Thank you Mandy. Our relationship with our memories is so powerful - it seems to be a fundamental part of who we are. What happens when those memories fade? Memory is so important to Mum. In some ways they appear to be getting more real to her - perhaps it is just that she is living her fears of the future through them. In some way, they seem to be her language to understand the world in which she has found herself.

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  5. Absolutely beautiful. I only wish I could write as well as you.

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  7. Oh Mandy you can - and do - write so beautifully and with such articulate tenderness.

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  8. This was so beautifully and tenderly written, I loved it. I've just been sitting here thinking, ever since reading it, about my daughter, my mother, my grandmother and my great-grandmother, and memories...thank you so much. :)

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  9. Intriguing and interesting story!
    Btw, I am going to be blogging from my other blog for now on. It will feature the same kind of writing you are used to. You can find it @ http://lifeonlovestreet.blogspot.com/

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  10. The Great Auntie Fanny (her true name) that lived in this wonderful old farm house before I did ,sounded much like the Aunt in your story . I would visit her Summers and she would always have a half finish jigsaw puzzle of some sort on the parlor table that she and her sister would poke around at from time to time.
    My great auntie was also quite the eccentric character and very vivacious . As a teenager I would busy myself in her garden observing her from a distance. She would oft be doing things I thought to be rather obscure yet fascinating . I admired her gusto to be totally who she was offering no apologies and having no care or what for, to those who didn't care to understand her . She was a bit of a rebel for her day . I secretly like to think I have a bit of her hutzpah !

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  11. I hear Spring has made it's way to the U.K. ~ I hope it is finding you poetically well :)

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  12. You have been missed my friend! Just thought I'd drop by and say hello;)

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  13. My friend you are always in my heart.

    Yannis Politopoulos

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  14. written so fine with memories ever in the mind to share in a nice way!! smiles:))

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For your voice is important... and words that are shared grow wings.