Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Ten Years Ago

Ten years ago today, while my beautiful Mum napped in her chair her heart beat it's last. She was 60 years of age, I was 28, and my son was not yet 1.
I wasn't there. I was at my own house eating smoked mackerel salad, listening to the 6 o'clock news from the TV in the other room, with Joseph eating spinach off my plate. On the news was the story of a child from Iraq who had been flown to Britain for operations on his legs. Or her legs. I forget that particular detail.
I remember the phonecall I got at 9.30 that night from my brother-in-law. I remember the phrase "it's not good". I didn't know at the time what that phrase meant. It meant she was dead.

For some time afterwards I would wear her shoes, I would wear her cardigans and jumpers, I would sit next to my father in church, so there would be no empty space where she should have been. I adopted her turns of phrase, her intonations, sang her songs, anything to keep her presence alive.

Ten years later none of us said anything. I've had a very heavy heart and a lot of private tears this week, but no conversations with my family about it. I'm not sure if that is odd. I have wanted to keep things around me quiet and manageable. Whether I am crying because I miss her, or because ten years is a significant amount of time for life to go on without her, or because she has missed so much, I don't know. All of these things, I suppose. And soon this intense period of sadness will pass away too, and things will carry on. But not yet.
I will keep things around me quiet and manageable for a little while yet.

          'It is such a secret place, the land of tears.'  
                                                                               


Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Iron Fist

The Iron Fist claws the comfort from her,
Pulling, tearing, dragging,
Wearing her down. Its grip
On her hips like a vice,
Cranked.

She rocks, rhythmically
Curling her spine,
Kneading in turn her taut lumbar, her bloated dough,
Seeking comfort in steeped leaves, in warm wheat and shushhh.

Her wrought and feverish mind grazes the surface of sleep,
The Iron Fist dragging her back
To the prickly heat and needles of noise
With a sharp twist in her lumbar.

The waning of this phase feels moons away yet.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Thursday Night is Question Time

Thursday night is the time of the week when I am most likely to embody the spirit of my dear departed Mother. I have to steel myself for the experience. It is at once comfortable and excruciating. I adopt her posture- legs folded under me, leaning to the right (ironically!). I hear her intonations burst forth from my own mouth, as I turn to the TV and shout "Fat Tory Bastard!", "That bloody liar!" and other such sweet nuthins.

I share many of my Mother's ways. Her literary interests (if not her depth of insight), her political leanings (though I am comparatively less well informed), her humour, I like to think also her warmth, and certainly her melancholy. And her hands. And her 'apple shape' (Thanks for that, Mum!). And I walk the same emotional tightrope that I think she must have. She could come across to others as aloof and superior at times, but she chose those times and she did it quite deliberately. It was her armour, and sharp words were her weapons. It is a family trait, and to wield those weapons rightfully and win makes us feel powerful, strong. I have had cause to don the amour quite recently myself, and I was bloody glad to have it at my disposal. It is amazing how effectively a show of strength disarms those who would attempt to dominate you when you're down. But what exactly happens when we take on the mantle of warrior? Is it something we put on, or something that comes from within? Do we become strong for the fight, or is it the fight that gives us strength? There certainly seems to be something about action that finds us with lead in our pencil. There must, I suppose, be people who live by this active principle as a matter of course. I imagine these are the 'successful' people - whatever that means. I certainly think that 'active', 'strong'...erm...'ambitious', 'driven', 'go-getting' are the qualities that our society values, or is told to value. But I do not feel that these are my natural traits. I am sure I can call upon them when needed, but these are not the things that I am made of. Traditionally they are masculine traits. I'm not making something of that, though I could, but it would be a digression that would be difficult to come back from. Or perhaps it wouldn't be a digression at all. Perhaps actually it is the salient point. We are after all talking about two women, their identities, both private and public, and the struggle to reconcile the cognitive dissonance that comes with being a woman, with fractured or multiple identities: Sharp tongued; warm hearted; superior; anxious; the fighter; the comforter.  With the demand for so much chameleon-like behaviour is it any wonder that finding one's core self or stable identity poses such a challenge and such a struggle for many women?

Thursday night is question time, and tonight's question, it turns out, is perhaps the oldest and most persistent question of all, that we are seeking to find an answer to from our early stages of development. "Who am I?"
 I will refrain from an exposition on Lacan's Mirror Stage, though there is much fertile ground there upon which we could explore identity as it relates to a precarious sense of mastery and the omnipotence of the mother. I think we have established that as subject, when I observe my image it is in many ways my Mother's  that is looking back at me.