At Sunday lunch, Rose had to try hard not to think about her mother. Not when she sat at the table next to her mother’s empty chair, not when Lily grilled only three lamb chops not four, nor when she add a sprig of rosemary to the roasting potatoes as her mother had always done. After their mother died, Lily suggested they cook a proper Sunday lunch every week for their Dad so it wouldn’t matter if he ate fish and chips the other six days. And so that’s what they did.“Right, if we’re going to sort out Mum’s cupboards we’d better make a start.” Rose had been dreading this, invading her mother’s privacy. She hated the idea of anyone searching through her own things. “Come on,” she said to Lily.
They were searching the kitchen cupboards for bin bags when their Dad John popped his head around the door.
“Just popping to the allotment. I promised Ron I’d help paint his shed. It’s a messy job and it’ll dry nicely on a fine afternoon like this. You’ll get on quicker without me here. Here you are Pumpkin.” He pushed a piece of paper towards Rose. “This is your mother’s list, what she wanted doing with everything. No need to keep anything for me, I’ve taken some things to keep to… to remind me of her. Her watch, and her rings. Anyway, see you later.” He was gone, leaving an invisible mist of embarrassment in the kitchen.
Rose stared at the closed door. “What’s his rush?”
“Poor Dad,” said Lily. “It must be awful having Mum’s things in the wardrobe next to his, seeing them each time he hangs his jacket up. We should have done this straight after the funeral.”
“I know, I know.” Rose tried to think of how he must feel, smelling Youth Dew on her mother’s dresses and jumpers every day, and the sadness bubbled up inside her. But then a bigger thought spoke with a sneaky voice deep in her head, that her father’s hasty exit smacked more of avoidance than grief. If being widowed had added another layer of life experience it had also added a layer of fat too. His face betrayed a mid-afternoon love for sugar-dusted donuts and fish and chips for tea. Not for the first time she wished her father had a brother or sister to help him grieve, as she knew Lily and she would help each other.
Rose looked at her mother’s list then shoved it in her pocket. Their mother had been dead for six months now, she thought, and she’s still telling us what to do. Then she felt horrible, for being horrible. There were things she wished she’d said to her mother, and some she wished she hadn’t. Perhaps if she’d been a bit more forgiving, a bit less prone to judge, they might have been better friends. Like mothers and daughters should be. Rose sighed, how different her childhood could have been if she’d been friends with her Mum.
She remembered their last Christmas all together. They had sat in front of the cosy fire, a rare moment of oneness, while Rose explained her photo theory. She hesitated, she had never shared it with anyone else. Each life experience adds a layer to your identity, she said, like the layers of separated colour film that make up photos. “Or like the paint used to screenprint the floral pattern on your blouse,” and she pointed at her mother’s favourite turquoise Liberty-print cotton blouse. “Each colour is applied separately and only when the last one is finished can the real pattern be seen. Your full personality, your complete self, is revealed only when you look through the scars and shadows and rainbows left by the experiences of life.”
Her mother had smiled. “But identity is much simpler than that, dear. Every woman is incomplete until she has a baby.”
© Sandra Danby
…in IGNORING GRAVITY #18: when Rose and Lily have very different ideas about pregnancy and motherhood.
This is the 17th instalment of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ about identity detective Rose Haldane. To start reading from the beginning, please click on the category ‘My Novel: Ignoring Gravity’ in the right hand menu.